Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "Chance ; a tale in two parts"

See other formats







c a 
I 4 i3 





Arlie W. Anderson 

Beth Anderson '80 
Roger L. Anderson 



3 1924 060 276 973 

All books are subject to recall after two weeks 
Olin/Kroch Library 


iji OJ. 

, r i/SV"V" 




no "*' 

rP ; ' 

— *'y inno 








Cornell University 

The original of this book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 




























MORE (Two Plays) 


With Ford Madox Ford '(Hueffer) 






Those"that hold that all things are 
governed by Fortune had not erred, 
had they not persisted there. 

— Sm Thomas Browns 



COPYRIGHT, 1913, 1921, BY 










"Chance" is one of my novels that shortly after 
having been begun were laid aside for a few months. 
Starting impetuously like a sanguine oarsman setting 
forth in the early morning I came very soon to a fork in 
the stream and found it necessary to pause and reflect 
seriously upon the direction I would take. Either pre- 
sented to me equal fascinations, at least on the surface, 
and for that very reason my hesitation extended over 
many days. I floated in the calm water of pleasant spec- 
ulation, between the diverging currents or conflicting 
impulses, with an agreeable but perfectly irrational con- 
viction that neither of those currents would take me to 
destruction. My sympathies being equally divided and 
the two forces being equal it is perfectly obvious that 
nothing but mere chance influenced my decision in the 
end. It is a mighty force that of mere chance," absolutely 
irresistible yet manifesting itself often in delicate forms 
such for instance as the charm, true or illusory, of a 
human being. It is very difficult to put one's finger 
on the imponderable, but I may venture to say that it 
is Flora de Barral who is really responsible for this 
novel which relates, in fact, the story of her life. 

At the crucial moment of my indecision Flora de 
Barral passed before me, but so swiftly that I failed at 
first to get hold of her. Though loth to give her 
up I didn't see the way of pursuit clearly and was 
on the point of becoming discouraged when my 
natural liking for Captain Anthony came to my as- 


sistance. I said to myself that if that man was so 
determined to embrace a "wisp of mist" the best thing 
for me was to join him in that eminently practical and 
praiseworthy adventure. I simply followed Captain 
Anthony. Each of us was bent on capturing his own 
dream. The reader will be able to judge of our success. 

Captain Anthony's determination led him a long 
and roundabout course and that is why this book is a 
long book. That the course was of my own choosing 
I will not deny. A critic has remarked that if I had 
selected another method of composition and taken a 
little more trouble the tale could have been told in 
about two hundred pages. I confess I do not perceive 
exactly the bearings of such criticism or even the use 
of such a remark. No doubt that by selecting a cer- 
tain method and taking great pains the whole story 
might have been written out on a cigarette paper. 
For that matter, the whole history of mankind could 
be written thus if only approached with sufficient de- 
tachment. The history of men on this earth since the 
beginning of ages may be resumed in one phrase of 
infinite poignancy: They were born, they suffered, 
they died. . . Yet it is a great tale! But in the 
infinitely minute stories about men and women it is 
my lot on earth to narrate I am not capable of such 

What makes this book memorable to me apart from 
the natural sentiment one has for one's creation is the 
response it provoked. The general public responded 
largely, more largely perhaps than to any other book of 
mine, in the only way the general public can respond, 
that is by buying a certain number of copies. This 
gave me a considerable amount of pleasure, because 
wnat I always feared most was drifting unconsciously 
into the position of a writer for a limited coterie; .a 


position which would have been odious to me as 
throwing a doubt on the soundness of my belief in the 
solidarity of all mankind in simple ideas and in sincere 
emotions. Regarded as a manifestation of criticism 
(for it would be outrageous to deny to the general 
public the possession of a critical mind) the reception 
was very satisfactory. I saw that I had managed to 
please a certain number of minds busy attending to 
their own very real affairs. It is agreeable to think 
one is able to please. From the minds whose business 
it is precisely to criticize such attempts to please, this 
book received an amount of discussion and of a rather 
searching analysis which not only satisfied that per- 
sonal vanity I share with the rest of mankind but 
reached my deeper feelings and aroused my gratified in- 
terest. The undoubted sympathy informing the varied 
appreciations of that book was, I love to think, a 
recognition of my good faith in the pursuit of my art 
— the art of the novelist which a distinguished French 
writer at the end of a successful career complained of as 
being: Trop difficile I It is indeed too arduous in the 
sense that the effort must be invariably so much 
greater than the possible achievement. In that sort of 
foredoomed task which is in its nature very lonely also, 
sympathy is a precious thing. It can make the most 
severe criticism welcome. To be told that better 
things have been expected of one may be soothing in 
view of how much better things one had expected from 
oneself in this art which, in these days, is no longer jus- 
tified by the assumption, somewhere and somehow, 
of a didactic purpose. 

I do not mean to hint that anybody had ever done 
me the injury (I don't mean insult, I mean injury) of 
charging a single one of my pages with didactic pur- 
pose. But every subject in the region of intellect and 



emotion must have a morality of its own if it is treated 
at all sincerely; and even the most artful of writers 
will give himself (and his morality) away in about 
every third sentence. The varied shades of moral 
significance which have been discovered in my writings 
are very numerous. None of them, however, has 
provoked a hostile manifestation. It may have hap- 
pened to me to sin against taste now and then, but ap- 
parently I have never sinned against the basic feelings 
and elementary convictions which make life possible 
to the mass of mankind and, by establishing a standard 
of judgment, set their idealism free to look for plainer 
ways, 3or higher feelings, for deeper purposes. 

I cannot say that any particular moral complexion 
has been put on this novel but I do not think that any- 
body had detected in it an evil intention. And it is 
only for their intentions that men can be held respon- 
sible. The ultimate effects of whatever they do are 
far beyond their control. In doing this book my in- 
tention was to interest people in my vision of things 
which is indissolubly allied to the style in which it is 
expressed. In other words I wanted to write a cer- 
tain amount of pages in prose, which, strictly speaking, 
is my proper business. I have attended to it conscien- 
tiously with the hope of being entertaining or at least 
not insufferably boring to my readers. I can not suf- 
ficiently insist upon the truth that when I sit down to 
write my intentions are always blameless however de- 
plorable the ultimate effect of the act may turn out 
to be. 

1920. J. C. 





Chapter One 
Young Powell and His Chance 3 

Chapter Two 
The Fynes and the Girl-Friend 35 

Chapter Three 
Thrift— And the Child 67 

Chapter Four 
The Governess 96 

Chapter Five 
The Tea-Party 134 

Chapter Six 
Flora 163 

Chapter Seven 
On the Pavement 196 




Chapter One 


The Ferndale 257 

Chapter Two 
Young Powell Sees and Hears 272 

Chapter Three 
Devoted Servants — And the Light of a Flare . 296 

Chapter Four 
Anthony and Flora 325 

Chapter Five 
The Great De Barral 349 

Chapter Six 

"... A moonless night, thick with stars 

above, very dark on the water" .... 402 





I believe he had seen us out of the window coming off 
to dine in the dinghy of a fourteen-ton yawl belonging 
to Marlow, my host and skipper. We helped the boy we 
had with us to haul the boat up on the landing-stage be- 
fore we went up to the river-side inn, where we found 
our new acquaintance eating his dinner in dignified 
loneliness at the head of a long table, white and in- 
hospitable like a snow bank. 

The red tint of his clear-cut face with trim short black 
whiskers under a cap of curly iron-grey hair was the only 
warm spot in the dinginess of that room cooled by the 
cheerless tablecloth. We knew him already by sight as 
the owner of a little five-ton cutter, which he sailed alone 
apparently, a fellow yachtsman in the unpretending 
band of fanatics who cruise at the mouth of the Thames. 
But the first time he addressed the waiter sharply as 
" steward " we knew him at once for a sailor as well as a 

Presently he had occasion to reprove that same waiter 
for the slovenly manner in which the dinner was served. 
He did it with considerable energy and then turned to 

"If we at sea," he declared, "went about our work as 
people ashore high and }pw go about theirs we should 


never make a living. No one would employ us. And 
moreover no ship navigated and sailed in the happy-go- 
lucky manner people conduct their business on shore 
would ever arrive into port." 

Since he had retired from the sea he had been aston- 
ished to discover that the educated people were not 
much better than the others. No one seemed to take 
any proper pride in his work: from plumbers who were 
simply thieves to, say, newspaper men (he seemed to 
think them a specially intellectual class) who never by 
any chance gave a correct version of the simplest 
affair. This universal inefficiency of what he called 
"the shore gang" he ascribed in general to the want of 
'responsibility and to a sense of security. 

"They see," he went on, "that no matter what they 
do this tight little island won't turn turtle with them or 
spring a leak and go to the bottom with their wives and 

From this point the conversation took a special turn 
relating exclusively to sea-life. On that subject he got 
quickly in touch with Marlow who in his time had 
followed the sea. They kept up a lively exchange of 
reminiscences while I listened. They agreed that the 
happiest time in their lives was as youngsters in good 
ships with no care in the world but not to lose a watch 
below when at sea and not a moment's time in going 
ashore after work hours when in harbour. They 
agreed also as to the proudest moment they had known 
in that calling which is never embraced on rational and 
practical grounds, because of the glamour of its ro- 
mantic associations. It was the moment when they 
had passed successfully their first examination and left 
the seamanship Examiner with the little precious slip of 
blue paper in their hands. 

"That day I wouldn't have called the Queen my 


cousin," declared our new acquaintance enthusiasti- 

At that time the Marine Board examinations took 
place at the St. Katherine's Dock House on Tower Hill 
and he informed us that he had a special affection for the 
view of that historic locality, with the Gar dens to the 
left, the front of the Mint to the right, the miserable 
tumble-down little houses farther away, a cabstand, 
boot-blacks squatting on the edge of the pavement and 
a pair of big policemen gazing with an air of superiority 
at the doors of the Black Horse public-house across the 
road. This was the part of the world, he said, his eyes 
first took notice of, on the finest day of his life. He had 
emerged from the main entrance of St. Katherine'sDock 
House a full-fledged second mate after the hottest time 

of his life with Captain R , the most dreaded of the 

three seamanship Examiners who at the time were 
responsible for the merchant service officers qualifying 
in the Port of London. 

"We all who were preparing to pass," he said, "used 
to shake in our shoes at the idea of going before him. 
He kept me for an hour and a half in the torture cham- 
ber and behaved as though he hated me. He kept his 
eyes shaded with one of his hands. Suddenly he let it 
drop saying, 'You will do!' Before I realized what he 
meant he was pushing the blue slip across the table. 
I jumped up as if my chair had caught fire. 

'"Thank you, sir,' says I, grabbing the paper. 

'"Good morning, good luck to you,' he growls at me. 

"The old doorkeeper fussed out of the cloak-room 
with my hat. They always do. But he looked very 
hard at me before he ventured to ask in a sort of timid 
whisper: 'Got through all right, sir?' For all answer I 
dropped a half-crown into his soft broad palm- 'Well,' 
says he with a sudden grin from ear to ear, 'I never 


knew him keep any of you gentlemen so long. He 
failed two second mates this morning before your turn 
came. Less than twenty minutes each: that's about 
his usual time.' 

"I found myself downstairs without being aware of 
the steps as if I had floated down the staircase. The 
finest day in my life. The day you get your first com- 
mand is nothing to it. For one thing a man is not so 
young then and for another with us, you know, there 
is nothing much more to expect. Yes, the finest day 
of one's life, no doubt, but then it is just a day and no 
more. What comes after is about the most unpleasant 
time for a youngster, the trying to get an officer's berth 
with nothing much to show but a brand-new certificate. 
It is surprising how useless you find that piece of ass's 
skin that you have been putting yourself in such a state 
about. It didn't strike me at the time that a Board of 
Trade e<jrtificate does not make an officer, not by a long, 
long way. But the skippers of the ships I was haunting 
with demands for a job knew that very well. I don't 
wonder at them now, and I don't blame them either. 
But this 'trying to get a ship' is pretty hard on a young- 
ster all the same. . . ." 

He went on then to tell us how tired he was and how 
discouraged by this lesson of disillusion following swiftly 
upon the finest day of his life. He told us how he went 
the round of all the ship-owners' offices in the City 
where some junior clerk would furnish him with printed 
forms of application which he took home to fill up in the 
evening. He used to run out just before midnight to 
post them in the nearest pillar-box. And that was all 
that ever came of it. In his own words : he might just as 
well have dropped them all properly addressed and 
stamped into the sewer grating. 

Then one day, as he was wending his weary way to the 


docks, he met a friend and former shipmate a little older 
than himself outside the Fenchurch Street Railway 

He craved for sympathy but his friend had just "got 
a ship" that very morning and was hurrying home in a 
state of outward joy and inward uneasiness usual to a 
sailor who after many days of waiting suddenly gets a 
berth. This friend had the time to condole with him 
but briefly. He must be moving. Then as he was 
running off, over his shoulder as it were, he suggested: 
"Why don't you go and speak to Mr. Powell in the 
Shipping Office? " Our friend objected that he did not 
know Mr. Powell from Adam. And the other already 
pretty near round the corner shouted back advice: 
" Go to the private door of the Shipping Office and walk 
right up to him. His desk is by the window. Go up 
boldly and say I sent you." 

Our new acquaintance looking from one to the other 
of us declared: "Upon my word, I had grown so 
desperate that I'd have gone boldly up to the devil him- 
self on the mere hint that he had a second mate's job to 
give away." 

It was at this point that interrupting his flow of talk 
to light his pipe but holding us with his eye he inquired 
whether we had known Powell. Mario w with a slight 
reminiscent smile murmured that he "remembered him 
very well." 

Then there was a pause. Our new acquaintance had 
become involved in a vexatious difficulty with his pipe 
which had suddenly betrayed his trust and disappointed 
his anticipation of self-indulgence. To keep the ball 
rolling I asked Marlow if this Powell was remarkable in 
any way. 

"He was hot exactly remarkable," Marlow answered 
with his usual nonchalance. "In a general way it's 


very difficult for one to become remarkable. People 
won't take sufficient notice of one, don't you know. 1 
remember Powell so well simply because as one of the 
Shipping Masters in the Port of London he dispatched 
me to sea on several long stages of my sailor's pilgrim- 
age. He resembled Socrates. I mean he resembled 
him genuinely: that is in the face. A philosophical 
mind is but an accident. He reproduced exactly the 
familiar bust of the immortal sage, if you will imagine 
the bust with a high top hat riding far on the back of the 
head and a black coat over the shoulders. As I never 
saw him except from the other side of the long official 
counter bearing the five writing-desks of the five Ship- 
ping Masters, Mr. Powell has remained a bust to me." 

Our new acquaintance advanced now from the 
mantel-piece with his pipe in good working order. 
> "What was the most remarkable about Powell," he 
enunciated dogmatically with his head in a cloud of 
smoke, "is that he should have had just that name. 
You see, my name happens to be Powell too." 

It was clear that this intelligence was not imparted to 
us for social purposes. It required no acknowledgment. 
We continued to gaze at him with expectant eyes. 

He gave himself up to the vigorous enjoyment of his 
pipe for a silent minute or two. Then picking up the 
thread of his story he told us how he had started hot 
foot for Tower Hill. He had not been that way since 
the day of his examination — the finest day of his life — 
the day of his overweening pride. It was very different 
now. He would not have called the Queen his cousin, 
still, but this time it was from a sense of profound 
abasement. He didn't think himself good enough for 
anybody's kinship. He envied the purple-nosed old 
cab-drivers on the stand, the boot-black boys at the 
edge of the pavement, the^two large bobbies pacing 


slowly along the Tower Gardens railings in the con- 
sciousness of their infallible might, and the bright 
scarlet sentries walking smartly to and fro before the 
Mint. He envied them their places in the scheme of 
world's labour. And he envied also the miserable, 
sallow, thin-faced loafers blinking their obscene eyes 
and rubbing their greasy shoulders against the door- 
jambs of the Black Horse pub, because they were too 
far gone to feel their degradation. 

I must render the man the justice that he conveyed 
very well to us the sense of his youthful hopelessness 
surprised at not finding its place in the sun and no 
recognition of its right to live. 

He went up the outer steps of St Katherine's Dock 
House, the very steps from which he had some six weeks 
before surveyed the cabstand, the buildings, the police- 
men, the boot-blacks, the paint, gilt, and plateglass of 
the Black Horse, with the eye of a Conqueror. At the 
time he had been at the bottom of his heart surprised 
that all this had not greeted him with songs and in- 
cense, but now (he made no secret of it) he made his 
entry in a slinking fashion past the doorkeeper's glass 
box. "I hadn't any half-crowns to spare for tips," he 
remarked grimly. The man, however, ran out after 
him asking : ' ' What do you require ? ' ' but with a grate- 
ful glance up at the first floor in remembrance of Cap- 
tain R— — 's examination room (how easy and de- 
lightful all that had been) he bolted down a flight lead- 
ing to the basement and found himself in a place of 
dusk and mystery and many doors. He had been afraid 
of being stopped by some rule of no admittance. How- 
ever he was not pursued. 

The basement of St. Katherine's Dock House is vast 
in extent and confusing in its plan. Pale shafts of light 
slant from above into the gloom of its chilly passages. 


Powell wandered up and down there like an early 
Christian refugee in the catacombs; but what little 
faith he had in the success of his enterprise was oozing 
out at his finger-tips. At a dark turn under a gas 
bracket whose flame was half turned down his self- 
confidence abandoned him altogether. 

"I stood there to think a little," he said. "A foolish 
thing to do because of course I got scared. What could 
you expect? It takes some nerve to tackle a stranger 
with a request for a favour. I wished my namesake 
Powell had been the devil himself. I felt somehow it 
would have been an easier job. You see, I never be- 
lieved in the devil enough to be scared of him; but a man 
can make himself very unpleasant. I looked at a lot 
of doors, all shut tight, with a growing conviction that I 
would never have the pluck to open one of them. 
Thinking's no good for one's nerve. I concluded I 
would give up the whole business. But I didn't give up 
in the end, and I'll tell you what stopped me. It was 
the recollection of that confounded doorkeeper who 
had called after me. I felt sure the fellow would be on 
the look out at the head of the stairs. If he asked me 
what I had been after, as he had the right to do, I 
wouldn't know what to answer that wouldn't make me 
look silly if no worse. I got very hot. There was no 
chance of slinking out of this business. 

"I had lost my bearings somehow down there. Of 
the many doors of various sizes, right and left, a good 
few had glazed lights above; some, however, must have 
led merely into lumber rooms or such like, because when 
I brought myself to try one or two I was disconcerted to 
find that they were locked. I stood there irresolute and 
uneasy like a baffled thief. The confounded basement 
was as still as a grave and I became aware of my heart- 
beats. Very^ uncomfortable sensation. Never hap- 


pened to me before or since. A bigger door to the left of 
me, with a large brass handle, looked as if it might lead 
into the Shipping Office. I tried it, setting my teeth. 
'Here goes!' 

"It came open quite easily. And lo! the place it 
opened into was hardly any bigger than a cupboard. 
Anyhow it wasn't more than ten feet by twelve; and as I 
in a way expected to see the big shadowy cellar-like ex- 
tent of the Shipping Office where I had been once or 
twice before, I was extremely startled. A gas bracket 
hung from the middle of the ceiling over a dark, shabby 
writing-desk covered with a litter of yellowish dusty 
documents. Under the flame of the single burner 
which made the place ablaze with light, a plump, little 
man was writing hard, his nose very near the desk. 
His head was perfectly bald and about the same drab 
tint as the papers. He appeared pretty dusty too. 

"I didn't notice whether there were any cobwebs on 
him, but I shouldn't wonder if there were because he 
looked as though he had been imprisoned for years in 
that little hole. The way he dropped his pen and sat 
blinking my way upset me very much. And his 
dungeon was hot and musty; it smelt of gas and mush- 
rooms, and seemed to be somewhere 120 feet below the 
ground. Solid, heavy stacks of paper filled all the cor- 
ners half-way up to the ceiling. And when the thought 
flashed upon me that these were the premises of the 
Marine Board and that this fellow must be connected 
in some way with ships and sailors and the sea, my 
astonishment took my breath away. One couldn't 
imagine why the Marine Board should keep that bald, 
fat creature slaving down there. For some reason or 
other I felt sorry and ashamed to have found him out in 
his wretched captivity. I asked gently and sorrowfully : 
'The Shipping Office, please.' 


" He piped up in a contemptuous squeaky voice which 
made me start: 'Not here. Try the passage on the 
other side. Street side. This is the Dock side. You've 
lost your way . . .' 

"He spoke in such a spiteful tone that I thought he 
was going to round off with the words: 'You fool' . . . 
and perhaps he meant to. But what he finished sharply 
with was: 'Shut the door quietly after you.' 

"And I did shut it quietly — you bet. Quick and 
quiet. The indomitable spirit of that chap impressed 
me. I wonder sometimes whether he has succeeded in 
writing himself into liberty and a pension at last, or had 
to go out of his gas-lighted grave straight into that other 
dart one where nobody would want to intrude. My 
humanity was pleased to discover he had so much kick 
left in him, but I was not comforted in the least. It 
occurred to me that if Mr. Powell had the same sort of 
temper. . . . However, I didn't give myself time 
to think and scuttled across the space at the foot of the 
stairs into the passage where I'd been told to try. And 
I tried the first door I came to, right away, without any 
hanging back, because coming loudly from the hall 
above an amazed and scandalized voice wanted to know 
what sort of game I was up to down there. 'Don't you 
know there's no admittance that way?' it roared. But 
if there was anything more I shut it out of my hearing by 
means of a door marked Private on the outside. It let 
me into a six-feet wide strip between a long counter 
and the wall, taken off a spacious, vaulted room with a 
grated window and a glazed door giving daylight to the 
farther end. The first thing I saw right in front of me 
were three middle-aged men having a sort of romp 
together round about another fellow with a thin, long 
neck and sloping shoulders who stood up at a desk 
writing on a large sheet of paper a^d taking no notice 


except that he grinned quietly to himself. They turned 
very sour at once when they saw me. I heard one of 
them mutter: 'Hullo! What have we here?' 

"'I want to see Mr. Powell, please,' I said, very civil 
but firm; I would let nothing scare me away now. This 
was the Shipping Office right enough. It was after 3 
o'clock and the business seemed over for the day with 
them. The long-necked fellow went on with his writing 
steadily. I observed that he was no longer grinning. 
The three others tossed their heads all together towards 
the far end of the room where a fifth man had been 
looking on at their antics from a high stool. I walked 
up to him as boldly as if he had been the devil himself. 
With one foot raised up and resting on the cross-bar of 
his seat he never stopped swinging the other which was 
well clear of the stone floor. He had unbuttoned the 
top of his waistcoat and he wore his tall hat very far at 
the back of his head. He had a full unwrinkled face 
and such clear-shining eyes that his grey beard looked 
quite false on him, stuck on for a disguise. You said 
just now he resembled Socrates — didn't you? I don't 
know about that. This Socrates was a wise man, I 

"He was," assented Marlow. "And a true friend of 
youth. He lectured them in a peculiarly exasperating 
manner. It was a way he had." 

"Then give me Powell every time," declared our new 
acquaintance sturdily. "He didn't lecture me in any 
way. Not he. He said: 'How do you do?' quite 
kindly to my mumble. Then says he looking very hard 
at me: 'I don't think I know you — do I?' 

" 'No, sir,' I said, and down went my heart sliding into 
my boots, just as the time had come to summon up all 
my cheek. There's nothing meaner in the world than 
a piece of impudence that isn't carried off well. For 


fear of appearing shamefaced I started about it so free 
and .easy as almost to frighten myself. He listened for 
a while looking at my face with surprise and curiosity 
and then held up his hand. I was glad enough to shut 
up, I can tell you. 

"'Well, you are a cool hand,' says he. 'And that 
friend of yours too. He pestered me coming here every 
day for a fortnight till a captain I'm acquainted with 
was good enough to give him a berth. And no 
sooner he's provided for than he turns you on. You 
youngsters don't seem to mind whom you get into 

"It was my turn now to stare with surprise and 
curiosity. He hadn't been talking loud, but he lowered 
his voice still more. 

"'Don't you know it's illegal?' 

"I wondered what he was driving at till I remembered 
that procuring a berth for a sailor is a penal offence 
under the Act. That clause was directed of course 
against the swindling practices of the boarding-house 
crimps. It had never struck me it would apply to 
everybody alike no matter what the motive, because I 
believed then that people on shore did their work with 
care and foresight. 

"I was confounded at the idea, but Mr. Powell made 
me soon see that an Act of Parliament hasn't any sense 
of its own. It has only the sense that's put into it; and 
that's precious little sometimes. He didn't mind help- 
ing a young man to a ship now and then, he said, but if 
we kept on coming constantly it would soon get about 
that he was doing it for money. 

'"A pretty thing that would be: the Senior Shipping 
Master of the Port of London hauled up in a police court 
and fined fifty pounds,' says he. 'I've another four 
ywrs to serve to get, mv n ension. It could be mad<> to 


look very black against me and don't you make any 
mistake about it,' he says. 

"And all the time with one knee well up he went on 
swinging his other leg like a boy on a gate and looking 
at me very straight with his shining eyes. I was con- 
founded I tell you. It made me sick to hear him 
imply that somebody would make a report against him. 

" 'Oh!' I asked shocked, 'who would think of such a 
scurvy trick, sir?' I was half disgusted with him for 
having the mere notion of it. 

"'Who?' says he, speaking very low. 'Anybody. 
One of the office messengers maybe. I've risen to be 
the Senior of this office and we are all very good friends 
here, but don't you think that my colleague that sits 
next to me wouldn't like to go up to this desk by the 
window four years in advance of the regulation time? 
Or even one year for that matter. It's human nature.' 

"I could not help turning my head. The three 
fellows who had been skylarking when I came in were 
now talking together very soberly, and the long-necked 
chap was going on with his writing still. He seemed to 
me the most dangerous of the lot. I saw him sideface 
and his lips were set very tight. I had never looked at 
mankind in that light before. When one's young hu- 
man nature shocks one. But what startled me most 
was to see the door I had come through open slowly and 
give passage to a head in a uniform cap with a Board of 
Trade badge. It was that blamed old doorkeeper from 
the hall. He had run me to earth and meant to dig me 
out too. He walked up the office smirking craftily, cap 
in hand. 

'"What is it, Symons?' asked Mr. Powell. 

"'I was only wondering where this 'ere gentleman 
'ad gone to, sir. He slipped past me upstairs, sir.' 

"I felt mighty uncomfortable- 


" 'That's all right, Symons. I know the gentleman,' 
says Mr. Powell as serious as a judge. 

"'Very well, sir. Of course, sir. I saw the gentle- 
man running races all by 'isself down 'ere, so I . . .' 

'"It's all right, I tell you,' Mr. Powell cut him short 
with a wave of his hand; and, as the old fraud walked off 
at last, he raised his eyes to me. I did not know what to 
do: stay there, or clear out, or say that I was sorry. 

'"Let's see,' says he, 'what did you tell me your 
name was?' 

"Now, observe, I hadn't given him my name at all 
and his question embarrassed me a bit. Somehow or 
other it didn't seem proper for me to fling his own name 
at him as it were. So I merely pulled out my new 
certificate from my pocket and put it into his hand un- 
folded, so that he could read Charles Powell written very 
plain on the parchment. 

"He dropped his eyes on to it and after a while laid 
it quietly on the desk by his side. I didn't know 
whether he meant to make any remark on this coinci- 
dence. Before he had time to say anything the glass 
door came open with a bang and a tall, active man 
rushed in with great strides. His face looked very red 
below his high silk hat. You could see at once he was 
the skipper of a big ship. 

"Mr. Powell, after telling me in an undertone to wait 
a little, addressed him in a friendly way. 

" 'I've been expecting you in every moment to fetch 
away your Articles, Captain. Here they are all ready 
for you.' And turning to a pile of agreements lying 
at his elbow he look up the topmost of them. From 
where I stood I could read the words: 'Ship Ferndale' 
written in a large round hand on the first page. 

" 'No, Mr. Powell, they aren't ready, worse luck,' saya 
that skipper. 'I've got to ask you to strike, out .my 


second officer.' He seemed excited and bothered. He 
explained that his second mate had been working on 
board all the morning. At one o'clock he went out to 
get a bit of dinner and didn't turn up at two as he ought 
to have done. Instead there came a messenger from 
the hospital with a note signed by a doctor. Collar 
bone and one arm broken. Let himself be knocked 
down by a pair horse van while crossing the road outside 
the dock gate, as if he had neither eyes nor ears. And 
the ship ready to leave the dock at six o'clock to-morrow 

"Mr. Powell dipped his pen and began to turn the 
leaves of the agreement over. 'We must then take his 
name off,' he says in a kind of unconcerned sing-song. 

"'What am I to do?' burst out the skipper. 'This 
office closes at four o'clock. I can't find a man in half 
an hour.' 

" 'This office closes at four,' repeats Mr. Powell glanc- 
ing up and down the pages and touching up a letter 
here and there with perfect indifference. 

" 'Even if I managed to lay hold some time to-day of a 
man ready to go at such short notice I couldn't ship him 
regularly here — could I?' 

"Mr. Powell was busy drawing his pen through the 
entries relating to that unlucky second mate and making 
a note in the margin. 

" 'You could sign him on yourself on board,' says he 
without looking up. 'But I don't think you'll find 
easily an officer for such a pier-head jump.' 

"Upon this the fine-looking skipper gave signs of dis- 
tress. The ship mustn't miss the next morning's tide. 
He had to take on board forty tons of dynamite and a 
hundred and twenty tons of gunpowder at a place down 
the river before proceeding to sea. It was all arranged 
for next day. There would be no end of fuss and com- 


plications if the ship didn't turn up in time. ... I 
couldn't help hearing all this, while wishing him to take 
himself off, because I wanted to know why Mr. Powell 
had told me to wait. After what he had been saying 
there didn't seem any object in my hanging about. If 
I had had my certificate in my pocket I would have tried 
to slip away quietly; but Mr. Powell had turned about 
into the same position I found him in at first and was 
again swinging his leg. My certificate open on the desk 
was under his left elbow and I couldn't very well go up 
and jerk it away. 

'"I don't know,' says he carelessly, addressing the 
helpless captain but looking fixedly at me with an ex- 
pression as if I hadn't been there. 'I don't know 
whether I ought to tell you that I know of a disengaged 
second mate at hand.' 

"'Do you mean you've got him here?' shouts the 
other, looking all over the empty public part of the 
office as if he were ready to fling himself bodily upon 
anything resembling a second mate. He had been so 
full of his difficulty that I verily believe he had never 
noticed me. Or perhaps seeing me inside he may have 
thought I was some understrapper belonging to the 
place. But when Mr. Powell nodded in my direction 
he became very quiet and gave me a long stare. Then 
he stooped to Mr. Powell's ear — I suppose he imagined 
he was whispering, but I heard him well enough. 

"'Looks very respectable.' 

"'Certainly,' says the shippingmaster, quite calm 
and staring all the time at me. 'His name's Powell.' 

"'Oh, I see!' says the skipper, as if struck all of a 
heap. 'But is he ready to join at once?' 

"I had a sort of vision of my lodgings — in the North 
of London, too, beyond Dalston, away to the devil — • 
and all my gear -"«++OT»rl about, and my empty sea-/ 


chest somewhere in an outhouse the good people I was 
staying with had at the end of their sooty strip of gar- 
den. I heard the Shipping Master say in the coolest 
sort of way. 

'"He'll sleep on board to-night.' 

'"He had better,' says the Captain of the Ferndale 
very businesslike, as if the whole thing were settled. I 
can't say I was dumb for joy as you may suppose. It 
wasn't exactly that. I was more by way of being out 
of breath with the quickness of it. It didn't seem 
possible that this was happening to me. But the 
skipper, after he had talked for a while with Mr. 
Powell, too low for me to hear, became visibly per- 

"I suppose he had heard I was freshly passed and 
without experience as an officer, because he turned 
about and looked me over as if I had been exposed for 

"'He's young,' he mutters. 'Looks smart, though. 
, . . You're smart and willing (this to me very sud- 
den and loud) and all that, aren't you?' 

"I just managed to open and shut my mouth, no 
more, being taken unawares. But it was enough for 
him. He made as if I had deafened him with protes- 
tations of my smartness and willingness. 

"'Of course, of course. All right.' And then turn- 
ing to the Shipping Master who sat there swinging his 
leg, he said that he certainly couldn't go to sea without a 
second officer. I stood by as if all these things were 
happening to some other chap whom I was seeing 
through with it. Mr. Powell stared at me with those 
shining eyes of his. But that bothered skipper turns 
upon me again as though he wanted to snap my head 

"'You aren't too big to be told how to do things— axe 


you? You've a lot to learn yet though you mayn't 
think so.' 

"I had half a mind to save my dignity by telling him 
that if it was my seamanship he was alluding to I 
wanted him to understand that a fellow who had 
survived being turned inside out for an hour and a half 

by Captain R was equal to any demand his old ship 

was likely to make on his competence. However he 
didn't give me a chance to make that sort of fool of 
myself, because before I could open my mouth he had 
gone round on another tack and was addressing himself 
affably to Mr. Powell, who swinging his leg never took 
his eyes off me. 

"'I'll take your young friend willingly, Mr. Powell. 
If you let him sign on as second mate at once I'll take 
the Articles away with me now.' 

"It suddenly dawned upon me that the innocent 
skipper of the Ferndale had taken it for granted that I 
was a relative of the Shipping Master! I was quite 
astonished at this discovery, though indeed the mistake 
was natural enough under the circumstances. What 
I ought to have admired was the reticence with which 
this misunderstanding had been established and acted 
apon. But I was too stupid then to admire anything. 
All my anxiety was that this should be cleared up. I 
was ass enough to wonder exceedingly at Mr. Powell 
failing to notice the misapprehension. I saw a slight 
twitch come and go on his face; but instead of setting 
right that mistake the Shipping Master swung round 
on his stool and addressed me as 'Charles.' He did. 
And I detected him taking a hasty squint at my cer- 
tificate just before, because clearly till he did so he was 
not sure of my Christian name. 'Now then, come 
round in front of the desk, Charles, 5 says he in a loud 


"Charles! At first, I declare to you, it didn't seem 
possible that he was addressing himself to me. I even 
looked round for that Charles, but there was nobody 
behind me except the thin-necked chap still hard at his 
writing, and the other three Shipping Masters who were 
changing their coats and reaching for their hats, making 
ready to go home. It was the industrious thin-necked 
man who without laying down his pen lifted with his 
left hand a flap near his desk and said kindly: 'Pass 
this way.' # 

"I walked through in a trance, faced Mr. Powell, from 
whom I learned that we were bound to Port Elizabeth 
first, and signed my name on the Articles of the ship 
Ferndale as second mate; — the voyage not to exceed two 

"'You won't fail to join — eh?' says the captain 
anxiously. 'It would cause no end of trouble and ex- 
pense if you did. You've got a good six hours to get 
your gear together, and then you'll have time to snatch 
a sleep on board before the crew joins in the morning.' 

"It was easy enough for him to talk of getting ready 
in six hours for a voyage that was not to exceed two 
years. He hadn't to do that trick himself, and with his 
sea-chest locked up in an outhouse the key of which had 
been mislaid for a week as I remembered. But neither 
was I much concerned. The idea that I was absolutely 
going to sea at six o'clock next morning hadn't got 
quite into my head yet. It had been too sudden. 

"Mr. Powell, slipping the Articles into a long en- 
velope, spoke up with a sort of cold half-laugh without 
looking at either of us. 

"'Mind you don't disgrace the name, Charles.' 

"And the skipper chimes in very kindly — 

'"He'll do well enough, I dare say. I'll look after 
him a bit.' 


' "Upon this he grabs the Articles, says something 
about trying to run in for a minute to see that poor 
devil in the hospital, and off he goes with his heavy 
swinging step after telling me sternly, 'Don't you go 
like that poor fellow and get yourself run over by a cart 
as if you hadn't either eyes or ears.' 

"'Mr. Powell,' says I timidly (there was by then only 
the thin-necked man left in, the office with us, and he 
was already by the door, standing on one leg to turn the 
bottom of his trousers up before going away). 'Mr. 
Powell,' says I, 'I believe the captain of the Ferndale 
Was thinking all the time that I was a relation of yours.' 

"I was rather concerned about the propriety of it, 
you know, but Mr. Powell didn't seem to be in the least. 

'"Did he?' says he. 'That's funny, because it 
seems to me too that I've been a sort of good uncle to 
several of you young fellows lately. Don't you think 
so yourself? However, if you don't like it you may put 
him right — when you get out to sea.' At this I felt a bit 
queer. Mr. Powell had rendered me a very good ser- 
vice: — because it's a fact that with us merchant sailors 
the first voyage as officer is the real start in life. He had 
given me no less than that. I told him warmly that he 
had done more for me that day than all my relations put 
together ever did. 

" ' Oh, no, no, ' says he. 'I guess it's that shipment of 
explosives waiting down the river which has done most 
for you. Forty tons of dynamite have been your best 
friend to-day, young man.' 

" That was true too, perhaps. Anyway I saw clearly 
enough that I had nothing to thank myself for. But as 
I tried to thank him he checked my stammering. 

"'Don't be in a hurry to thank me,' says he. 'The 
voyage isn't finished yet.' " 

Our new acquaintance paused, then added medi- 


tatively: "Queer man. As if it made any difference. 
Queer man." 

"It's certainly unwise to admit any sort of responsi- 
bility for our actions, whose consequences we are never 
able to foresee," remarked Marlow by way of assent. 

"The consequence of his action was that I got a ship," 
said the other. "That could not do much harm," he 
added with a laugh which argued a probably un- 
conscious contempt of general ideas. 

But Marlow was not put off. He was patient and 
reflective. He had been at sea many years, and I 
verily believe he liked sea-life because upon the whole it 
is favourable to reflection. I am speaking of the now 
nearly vanished sea-life under sail. To those who may 
be surprised at the statement I will point out that this 
life secured for the mind of him who embraced it the 
inestimable advantages of solitude and silence. Mar- 
low had the habit of pursuing general ideas in a peculiar 
manner, between jest and earnest. 

"Oh, I wouldn't suggest," he said, "that your name- 
sake, Mr. Powell, the Shipping Master, had done you 
much harm. Such was hardly his intention. And even 
if it had been he would not have had the power. He 
was but a man, and the incapacity to achieve anything 
distinctly good or evil is inherent in our earthly con- 
dition. Mediocrity is our mark. And perhaps it's 
just as well, since, for the most part, we cannot be cer- 
tain of the effect of our actions." 

"I don't know about the effect," the other stood up 
to Marlow manfully. " What effect did you expect any- 
how? I tell you he did something uncommonly kind." 

"He did what he could," Marlow retorted gently, 
"and on his own showing that was not a very great deal. 
I cannot help thinking that there was some malice in 
the way he seized the opportunity to serve you. He 


managed to make you uncomfortable. You wanted to 
go to sea, but he jumped at the chance of accommo- 
dating your desire with a vengeance. I am inclined to 
think your cheek alarmed him. And this was an ex- 
cellent occasion to suppress you altogether. For if you 
accepted he was relieved of you with every appearance 
of humanity, and if you made objections (after re- 
questing his assistance, mind you) it was open to him 
to drop you as a sort of impostor. You might have 
had to decline that berth for some very valid reason. 
From sheer necessity perhaps. The notice was too 
uncommonly short. But under the circumstances you'd 
have covered yourself with ignominy." 

Our new friend knocked the ashes out of his pipe. 

" Quite a mistake," he said. " I am not of the declin- 
ing sort, though I'll admit it was something like telling 
a man that you would like a bath, and in consequence 
being instantly knocked overboard to sink or swim with 
your clothes on. However, I didn't feel as if I were in 
deep water at first. I left the Shipping Office quietly 
and for a time strolled along the street as easy as if I had 
a week before me to fit myself out. But by and by I 
reflected that the notice was even shorter than it looked. 
The afternoon was well advanced; I had some things to 
get, a lot of small matters to attend to, one or two 
persons to see. One of them was an aunt of mine, my 
only relation, who quarrelled with poor father as long 
as he lived about some silly matter that had neither 
right nor wrong to it. She left her money to me wb*»n 
she died. I used always to go and see her for decency's 
sake. I had so much to do before night that I didn't 
know where to begin. I felt inclined to sit down on the 
kerb and hold my head in my hands. It was as if an 
engine had been started going under my skull. Finally 
J, pat down in the first cab that came along and it was a 


hard matter to keep on sitting there, I can tell you, 
while we rolled up and down the streets, pulling up here 
and there, the parcels accumulating round me and the 
engine in my head gathering more way every minute. 
The composure of the people on the pavements was 
provoking to a degree, and as to the people in shops, 
they were benumbed, more than half frozen — imbecile. 
Funny how it affects you to be in a peculiar state of 
mind: everybody that does not act up to your excite- 
ment seems so confoundedly unfriendly. And my state 
of mind, what with the hurry, the worry and a growing 
exultation, was peculiar enough. That engine in my 
head went round at its top speed hour after hour till at 
about eleven at night it let up on me suddenly at the 
entrance to the Dock before large iron gates in a dead 

These gates were closed and locked. The cabby, 
after shooting his things off the roof of his machine into 
young Powell's arms, drove away, leaving him alone witi 
his sea-chest, a sail cloth bag and a few parcels on 
the pavement about his feet. It was a dark, narrow 
thoroughfare, he told us. A mean row of houses on the 
other side looked empty: there wasn't the smallest 
gleam of light in them. The white-hot glare of a gin 
palace a good way off made the intervening piece of the 
street pitch black. Some human shapes appearing 
mysteriously, as if they had sprung up from the dark 
ground, shunned the edge of the faint light thrown 
down by the gateway lamps. These figures were wary 
in their movements and perfectly silent of foot, like 
beasts of prey slinking about a camp fire. Powell 
gathered up his belongings and hovered over them like 
a hen over her brood, A gruffly insinuating voice 
said — 


"Let's carry your things in, Capt'in! I've got my 
pal 'ere." 

He was a tall, bony, grey-haired ruffian with a bulldog 
Jaw, in a torn cotton shirt and moleskin trousers. The 
shadow of his hobnailed boots was enormous and 
coffinlike. His pal, who didn't come up much higher 
than his elbow, stepping forward, exhibited a pale face 
with a long drooping nose and no chin to speak of. He 
seemed to have just scrambled out of a dust-bin in a 
tam-o'-shanter cap and a tattered soldier's coat much 
too long for him. Being so deadly white, he looked like 
a horrible dirty invalid in a ragged dressing-gown. The 
coat flapped open in front and the rest of his apparel 
consisted of one brace which crossed his naked, bony 
chest, and a pair of trousers. He blinked rapidly as if 
dazed by the faint light, while his patron, the old 
bandit, glowered at young Powell from under his beet- 
ling brow. 

"Say the word, Capt'in. The bobby'll let us in all 
right. 'E knows both of us." 

"I didn't answer him," continued Mr. Powell. "I 
was listening to footsteps on the other side of the gate, 
echoing between the walls of the warehouses as if in 
an uninhabited town of very high buildings dark from 
basement to roof. You could never have guessed that 
within a stone's throw there was an open sheet of water 
and big ships lying afloat. The few gas lamps showing 
up a bit of brickwork here and there, appeared in the 
blackness like penny dips in a range of cellars — and the 
solitary footsteps came on, tramp, tramp. A dock 
policeman strode into the light on the other side of the 
gate, very broad-chested and stern. 

"'Hallo! What's up here?' 

"He was really surprised, but after some palaver he 
let me in together with the two loafers carrying my 


luggage. He grumbled at them, however, and slammed 
the gate violently with a loud clang. I was startled to 
discover how many night prowlers had collected in the 
darkness of the street in such a short time and without 
my being aware of it. Directly we were through they 
came surging against the bars, silent, like a mob of ugly 
spectres. But suddenly, up the street somewhere, 
perhaps near that public-house, a row started as if 
Bedlam had broken loose: shouts, yells, an awful shrill 
shriek — and at that noise all these heads vanished from 
behind the bars. 

'"Look at this,' marvelled the constable. 'It's a 
wonder to me they didn't make off with your things 
while you were waiting.' 

"'•I would have taken good care of that,' I said de- 
fiantly. But the constable wasn't impressed. 

"'Much you would have done. The bag going off, 
round one dark corner; the chest round another. Would ; 
you have run two ways at once? And anyhow you'd 
have been tripped up and jumped upon before you had 
run three yards. I tell you you've had a most extraor- 
dinary chance that there wasn't one of them regular 
boys about to-night, in the High Street, to twig your 
loaded cab go by. Ted here is honest. . . . You 
are on the honest lay, Ted, ain't you?' 

'"Always was, orficer,' said the big ruffian with feel- 
ing. The other frail creature seemed dumb, and only 
hopped about with the edge of its soldier coat touching 
the ground. 

" 'Oh yes, I dare say,' said the constable. 'Now then, 
forward, march. . . . He's that because he ain't 
game for the other thing,' he confided to me. 'He 
hasn't got the nerve for it. However, I ain't going to 
lose sight of them two till they go out through the gate. 
That little chap's a devil. He's got the nerve for any- 


thing, only he hasn't got the muscle. Well! Well! 
You've had a chance to get in with a whole skin and with 
all your things.' 

"I was incredulous a little. It seemed impossible 
that after getting ready with so much hurry and in- 
convenience I should have lost my chance of a start in 
life from such a cause. I asked — 

"'Does that sort of thing happen often so near the 
dock gates?' 

"'Often! No! Of course not often. But it ain't 
often either that a man comes along with a cabload of 
things to join a ship at this time of night. I've been in 
the dock police thirteen years and haven't seen it done 

"Meantime we followed my sea-chest which was 
being carried down a sort of deep narrow lane, separat- 
ing two high warehouses, between honest Ted and his 
little devil of a pal who had to keep up a trot to the 
other's stride. The skirt of his soldier's coat floating 
behind him nearly swept the ground so that he seemed 
to be running on castors. At the corner of the gloomy 
passage a rigged jib boom with a dolphin-striker ending 
in an arrow-head stuck out of the night close to a cast- 
iron lamp-post. It was the quay-side. They set down 
their load in the light and honest Ted asked hoarsely — 

'"Where's your ship, guv'nor?' 

"I didn't know. The constable was interested at 
my ignorance. 

"'Don't know where your ship is?' he asked with 
curiosity. 'And you the second officer! Haven't you 
been working on board of her?' 

"I couldn't explain that the only work connected with 
my appointment was the work of chance. I told him 
briefly that I didn't know her at all. At this he re- 
marked — 


"'So I see. Here she is, right before you. That's 

"At once the head-gear in the gas light inspired me 
with interest and respect; the spars were big, the chains 
and ropes stout, and the whole thing looked powerful 
and trustworthy. Barely touched by the light, her 
bows rose faintly alongside the narrow strip of the quay; 
the rest of her was a black smudge in the darkness. 
Here I was face to face with my start in life. We 
walked in a body a few steps on a greasy pavement be- 
tween her side and the towering wall of a warehouse and 
I hit my shins cruelly against the end of the gangway. 
The constable hailed her quietly in a bass undertone, 
'Ferndale there!' A feeble and dismal sound, some- 
thing in the nature of a buzzing groan, answered from 
behind the bulwarks. 

"I distinguished vaguely an irregular round knob, of 
wood, perhaps, resting on the rail. It did not move in 
the least; but as another broken-down buzz like a still 
fainter echo of the first dismal sound proceeded from it 
I concluded it must be the head of the shipkeeper. The 
stalwart constable jeered in a mock-official manner. 

"'Second officer coming to join. Move yourself a 

" The truth of the statement touched me in the pit of 
the stomach (you know that's the spot where emotion 
gets home on a man), for it was borne upon me that 
really and truly I was nothing but a second officer of a 
ship just like any other second officer to that constable. 
I was moved by this solid evidence of my new dignity. 
Only his tone offended me. Nevertheless I gave him 
the tip he was looking for. Thereupon he lost all 
interest in me, humorous or otherwise, and walked 
away driving sternly before him the honest Ted, who 
went off grumbling to himself like a hungry ogre, and 


his horrible dumb little pal in the soldier's coat, who, 
from first to last, never emitted the slightest sound. 

"It was very dark on the quarter-deck of the Fern- 
dale between the deep bulwarks overshadowed by the 
break of the poop and frowned upon by the front of the 
warehouse. I plumped down on to my chest near the 
after hatch as if my legs had been jerked from under me. 
I felt suddenly very tired and languid. The ship- 
keeper, whom I could hardly make out, hung over the 
capstan in a fit of weak, pitiful coughing. He gasped 
out vdry low, 'Oh! dear! Oh! dear!' and struggled 
for breath so long that I got up, alarmed and irreso- 

" 'I've been took like this since last Christmas twelve- 
month. It ain't nothing.' 

"He seemed a hundred years old at least. I never 
saw him properly, because he was gone ashore and out of 
sight when I came on deck in the morning; but he gave 
me the notion of the feeblest creature that ever 
breathed. His voice was thin like the buzzing of a 
mosquito. As it would have been cruel to demand 
assistance from such a shadowy wreck, I went to work 
myself, dragging my chest along a pitch-black passage 
under the poop-deck, while he sighed and moaned 
around me as if my exertions were more than his weak- 
ness could stand. At last, as I banged pretty heavily 
against the bulkheads, he warned me in his faint 
breathless wheeze to be more careful. 

" 'What's the matter?' I asked rather roughly, not rel- 
ishing to be admonished by this forlorn broken-down 

"'Nothing! Nothing, sir,' he protested so hastily 
that he lost his poor breath again and I felt sorry for 
him. 'Only the captain and his missus are sleeping on 
board. She's a lady that mustn't be disturbed. They 


Came about half -past eight, and we had a permit to have 
lights in the cabin till ten to-night.' 

"This struck me as a considerable piece of news. I 
had never been in a ship where the captain had his wife 
with him. I'd heard fellows say that captains' 
could work a lot of mischief on board ship if they 
happened to take a dislike to any one; especially the 
new wives if young and pretty. The old and experienced 
wives, on the other hand, fancied they knew more 
about the ship than the skipper himself and had an eye 
like a hawk's for what went on. They were like an 
extra chief mate of a particularly sharp and unfeeling 
sort who made his report in the evening. The best of 
them were a nuisance. In the general opinion a skipper 
with his wife on board was more difficult to please; but 
whether to show off his authority before an admiring 
female, or from loving anxiety for her safety, or simply 
from irritation at her presence — nobody I ever heard on 
the subject could tell for certain. 

"After I had bundled in my things somehow I struck 
a match and had a dazzling glimpse of my berth; then I 
pitched the roll of my bedding into the bunk, but took 
no trouble to spread it out. I wasn't sleepy now, 
neither was I tired. And the thought that I was done 
with the earth for many many months to come made me 
feel very quiet and self-contained as it were. Sailors 
will understand what I mean." 

Marlow nodded. "It is a strictly professional 
feeling," he commented. "But other professions or 
trades know nothing of it. It is only this calling whose 
primary appeal lies in the suggestion of restless ad- 
venture which holds out that deep sensation to those 
who embrace it. It is difficult to define, I admit." 

"I should call it the peace of the sea," said Mr. 
Charles Powell »u an earnest tone, but looking at us as 


though he expected to be met by a laugh of derision and 
were half prepared to salve his reputation for common 
sense by joining in it. But neither of us laughed at Mr. 
Charles Powell, in whose start in life we had been called 
to take a part. He was lucky in his audience. 

"A very good name," said Marlow looking at him ap- 
provingly. "A sailor finds a deep feeling of security in 
the exercise of his calling. The exacting life of the sea 
has this advantage over the life of the earth, that its 
claims are simple and cannot be evaded." 

"Gospel truth," assented Mr. Powell. "No! they 
cannot be evaded." 

That an excellent understanding should have estab- 
lished itself between my old friend and our new ac- 
quaintance was remarkable enough. For they were 
exactly dissimilar — one individuality projecting itself 
in length and the other in breadth, which is already a 
sufficient ground for irreconcilable difference. Marlow, 
who was lanky, loose, quietly composed in varied shades 
of brown, robbed of every vestige of gloss, had a narrow, 
veiled glance, the neutral bearing and the secret 
irritability which go together with a predisposition to 
congestion of the liver. The other compact, broad and 
sturdy of limb, seemed extremely full of sound organs 
functioning vigorously all the time in order to keep up 
the brilliance of his colouring, the light curl of his coal- 
black hair and the lustre of his eyes, which asserted 
themselves roundly in an open, manly face. Between 
two such organisms one would not have expected to 
find the slightest temperamental accord. But I have 
observed that profane men living in ships, like the holy 
men gathered together in monasteries, develop traits of 
profound resemblance. This must be because the ser- 
vice of the sea and the service of a temple are both 
detached from the vanities and errors of a world which 


follows no severe rule. The men of the sea understand 
each other very well in their view of earthly things, for 
simplicity is a good counsellor and isolation not a bad 
educator. A turn of mind composed of innocence and 
scepticism is common to them all, with the addition of 
an unexpected insight into motives, as of disinterested 
lookers-on at a game. Mr. Powell took me aside to 

"I like the things he says." 

"You understand each other pretty well," I ob- 

"I know his sort," said Powell, going to the window 
to look at his cutter still riding to the flood. "He's the 
sort that's always chasing some notion or other round 
and round his head just for the fun of the thing." 

"Keeps them in good condition," I said. 

"Lively enough I dare say," he admitted. 

"Would you like better a man who let his notions lie 
curled up?" 

"That I wouldn't," answered our new acquaintance. 
Clearly he was not difficult to get on with. "I like 
him, very well," he continued, "though it isn't easy to 
make him out. He seems to be up to a thing or two. 
What's he doing?" 

I informed him that our friend Marlow had retired 
from the sea in a sort of half-hearted fashion some 
years ago. 

Mr. Powell's comment was: "Fancied had enough of 


"Fancied's the very word to use in this connection," 
I observed, remembering the subtly provisional char- 
acter of Marlow's long sojourn amongst us. From 
year to year he dwelt on land as a bird rests on the 
branefc of a tree, so tense with the power of brusque 
flight iftto its true element that it is incomprehensible 


why it should sit still minute after minute. The sea is 
the sailor's true element, and Marlow, lingering on 
shore, was to me an object of incredulous commiseration 
like a bird, which, secretly, should have lost its faith in 
the high virtue of flying. 



We were on our feet in the room by then, and 
Marlow, brown and deliberate, approached the window 
where Mr. Powell and I had retired. 

"What was the name of your chance again?" he 

Mr. Powell stared for a moment. 

"Oh! The Ferndale. A Liverpool ship. Compos- 
ite built." 

"Ferndale," repeated Marlow thoughtfully. "Fern,' 

"Know her?" 

"Our friend," I said, "knows something of every 
ship. He seems to have gone about the seas prying into 
things considerably." 

Marlow smiled. 

"I've seen her, at least once." 

"The finest sea-boat ever launched," declared Mr. 
Powell sturdily. "Without exception." 

"She looked a stout, comfortable ship," assented 
Marlow. "Uncommonly comfortable. Not very fast 

"She was fast enough for any reasonable man — when 
I was in her," growled Mr. Powell with his back to us. 

"Any ship is that — for a reasonable man," general- 
ized Marlow in a conciliatory tone. "A sailor isn't a 

"No," muttered Mr. Powell. 


"Time's nothing to him," advanced Marlow. 
"I don't suppose it's much," said Mr. Powell. "All 
the same, a quick passage is a feather in a man's cap." 

"True. But that ornament is for the use of the 
master only. And, by the by, what was his name?" 

"The master of the Ferndale? Anthony. Captain 

"Just so. Quite right," approved Marlow thought- 
fully. Our new acquaintance looked over his shoulder. 

" What do you mean? Why is it more right than if it 
had been Brown?" 

"He has known him, probably," I explained. "Mar- 
low here appears to know something of every soul that 
ever went afloat in a sailor's body." 

Mr. Powell seemed wonderfully amenable to verbal 
suggestions, for looking again out of the window, he 
muttered: "He was a good soul." 

This clearly referred to Captain Anthony of the Fern- 
dale. Marlow addressed his protest to me. 

"I did not know him. I really didn't. He was a 
good soul. That's nothing very much out of the way — 
is it? And I didn't even know that much of him. All 
I knew of him was an accident called Fyne." 

At this Mr. Powell, who evidently could be rebellious, 
too, turned his back squarely on the window.. 

"What on earth do you mean?" he asked. "An — 
accident — called Fyne," he repeated, separating the 
Words with emphasis. 

Marlow was not disconcerted. 

" I don't mean accident in the sense of a mishap. Not 
in the least. Fyne was a good little man in the Civil 
Service. By accident I mean that which happens 
blindly and without intelligent design. That's gener- 
ally the way a brother-in-law happens into, a man's 


Marlow's tone being apologetic and our new ac- 
quaintance having again turned to the window, I took 
it upon myself to say — 

"You are justified. There is very little intelligent 
design in the majority of marriages ; but they are none 
the worse for that. Intelligence leads people astray as 
far as passion sometimes. I know you are not a cynic." 

Marlow smiled his retrospective smile, which was 
kind as though he bore no grudge against people he 
used to know. 

"Little Fyne's marriage was quite successful. There 
was no design at all in it. Fyne, you must know, was an 
enthusiastic pedestrian. He spent his holidays tramp- 
ing all over our native land. His tastes were simple. 
He put infinite conviction and perseverance into his 
holidays. At the proper season you would meet in the 
fields Fyne, a serious-faced, broad-chested, little man, 
with a shabby knapsack on his back, making for some 
church steeple. He had a horror of roads. He wrote 
once a little book called the 'Tramp's Itinerary,' and 
was recognized as an authority on the footpaths of 
England. So one year, in his favourite over-the-fields, 
back-way fashion he entered a pretty Surrey village 
where he met Miss Anthony. Pure accident, you see. 
They came to an understanding, across some stile, most 
likely. Little Fyne held very solemn views as to the 
destiny of women on this earth, the nature of our 
sublunary love, the obligations of this transient life, 
and so on. He probably disclosed them to his future 
wife. Miss Anthony's views of life were very decided, 
too, but in a different way. I don't know the story of 
their wooing. I imagine it was carried on clandestinely 
and, I am certain, with portentous gravity, at the back 
of copses, behind hedges. ..." 

"Why was it carried on clandestinely?" I inquired. 


"Because of the lady's father. He was a savage 
sentimentalist who had his own decided views of his 
paternal prerogatives. He was a terror; but the only 
evidence of imaginative faculty about Fyne was his 
pride in his wife's parentage. It stimulated his in- 
genuity, too. Difficult — is it not? — to introduce one's 
wife's maiden name into general conversation. But 
my simple Fyne made use of Captain Anthony for that 
purpose, or else I would never even have heard of the 
man. 'My wife's sailor-brother' was the phrase. He 
trotted out the sailor-brother in a pretty wide range of 
subjects: Indian and colonial affairs, matters of trade, 
talk of travels, of seaside holidays and so on. Once I 
remember 'My wife's sailor-brother Captain Anthony' 
being produced in connection with nothing less recon- 
dite than a sunset. And little Fyne never failed to add: 
'The son of Carleon Anthony, the poet — you know.' 
He used to lower his voice for that statement, and 
people were impressed, or pretended to be." 

The late Carleon Anthony, the poet, sang in his time, 
of the domestic and social amenities of our age with a 
most felicitous versification, his object being, in his own 
words, "to glorify the result of six thousand years' 
evolution towards the refinement of thought, manners, 
and feelings." Why he fixed the term at six thousand 
years I don't know. His poems read like sentimental 
novels told in verse of a really superior quality. You 
felt as if you were being taken out for a delightful 
country drive by a charming lady in a pony carriage. 
But in his domestic life that same Carleon Anthony 
showed traces of the primitive cave-dweller's tempera- 
ment. He was a massive, implacable man with a 
handsome face, arbitrary and exacting with his de- 
pendants, but marvellously suave in his manner to 
sdmiring strangers. These contrasted displays must 


have been particularly exasperating to his long-suffering 
family. After his second wife's death his boy, whom he 
persisted by a mere whim in educating at home, ran 
away in conventional style and, as if disgusted with 
the amenities of civilization, threw himself, figuratively 
speaking, into the sea. The daughter (the elder of the 
two children), either from compassion or because 
women are naturally more enduring, remained in bond- 
age to the poet for several years, till she too seized a 
chance of escape by throwing herself into the arms, the 
muscular arms, of the pedestrian Fyne. This was 
either great luck or great sagacity. A civil servant is, I 
should imagine, the last human being in the world to 
preserve those traits of the cave-dweller from which she 
was fleeing. Her father would never consent to see 
her after the marriage. Such unforgiving selfishness is 
difficult to understand unless as a perverse sort of 
refinement. There were also doubts as to Carleon 
Anthony's complete sanity for some considerable 
time before he died. 

Most of the above I elicited from Marlow, for all I 
knew of Carleon Anthony was his unexciting but 
fascinating verse. Marlow assured me that the Fyne 
marriage was perfectly successful and even happy, in an 
earnest, unplayful fashion, being blessed besides by 
three healthy, active, self-reliant children, all girls. 
They were all pedestrians, too. Even the youngest 
would wander away for miles if not restrained. Mrs. 
Fyne had a ruddy out-of-doors complexion and wore 
blouses with a starched front like a man's shirt, a stand- 
up collar and a long necktie. Marlow had made their 
acquaintance one summer in the country, where they 
were accustomed to take a cottage for the holidays. . . . 
At this point we were interrupted by Mr. Powell, who 
declared that he must leave us. The tide was on the 


turn, he announced, coming away from the window 
abruptly. He wanted to be on board his cutter before 
she swung, and of course he would sleep on board. 
Never slept away from the cutter while on a cruise. He 
was gone in a moment, unceremoniously, but giving us 
no offence and leaving behind an impression as though 
we had known him for a long time. The ingenuous way 
he had told us of his start in life had something to do 
with putting him on that footing with us. I gave no 
thought to seeing him again. Marlow expressed a 
confident hope of coming across him before long. 

"He> cruises about the mouth of the river all the 
summer. He will be easy to find any week-end," he 
remarked, ringing the bell so that we might settle up 
with the waiter. 

Later on I asked Marlow why he wished to cultivate 
this chance acquaintance. He confessed apologetically 
that it was the commonest sort of curiosity. I flatter 
myself that I understand all sorts of curiosity. Curi- 
osity about daily facts, about daily things, about daily 
men. It is the most respectable faculty of the human 
mind — in fact, I cannot conceive the uses of an incurious 
mind. It would be like a chamber perpetually locked 
up. But in this particular case Mr. Powell seemed 
to have given us already a complete insight into his 
personality such as it was; a personality capable of 
perception and with a feeling for the vagaries of fate, 
but essentially simple in itself. 

Marlow agreed with me so far. He explained, how- 
ever, that his curiosity was not excited by Mr. Powell 
exclusively. It originated a good way further back in 
the fact of his accidental acquaintance with the Fynes 
in the country. This chance meeting with a man who 
had sailed with Captain Anthony had revived it. It 


had revived it to some purpose, to such purpose that to 
me too was given the knowledge of its origin and of its 
nature. ^ It was given to me in several stages, at inter- 
vals which are not indicated here. On this first oc- 
casion I remarked to Marlow with some surprise: 
"But, if I remember rightly, you said you didn't 
know Captain Anthony." 

"No. I never saw the man. It's years ago now, 
but I seem to hear solemn little Fyne's deep voice an- 
nouncing the approaching visit of his wife's brother, 
'the son of the poet, you know.' He had just arrived in 
London from a long voyage, and, directly his occupa- 
tions permitted, was coming down to stay with his 
relatives for a few weeks. No doubt we two should 
find many things to talk about by ourselves in reference 
to our common calling, added little Fyne portentously 
in his grave undertones, as if the Mercantile Marine 
were a secret society. 

"You must understand that I cultivated the Fynes 
only in the country, in their holiday time. This was 
the third year. Of their existence in town I knew no 
more than may be inferred from analogy. I played 
chess with Fyne in the late afternoon, and sometimes 
came over to the cottage early enough to have tea with 
the whole family at a big round table. They sat about 
it, an unsmiling, sunburnt company of very few words 
indeed. Even the children were silent and as if con- 
temptuous of each other and of their elders. Fyne 
muttered sometimes deep down in his chest some 
insignificant remark. Mrs. Fyne smiled mechanically 
(she had splendid teeth) while distributing tea and 
bread and butter. A something which was not cold- 
ness, nor yet indifference, but a sort of peculiar self- 
possession gave her the appearance of a very trust- 
Worthy, very capable and excellent governess; as it 


Fyne were a widower and the children not her own. but 
only entrusted to her calm, efficient, unemotional care. 
One expected her to address Fyne as Mr. When she 
called him John it surprised one like a shocking famili- 
arity. The atmosphere of that holiday was — if I may 
put it so — brightly dull. Healthy faces, fair com- 
plexions, clear eyes, and never a frank smile in the 
whole lot, unless perhaps from a girl-friend. 

" The girl-friend problem exercised me greatly. How 
and where the Fynes got all these pretty creatures to 
come and stay with them I can't imagine. I had at 
first the wild suspicion that they were obtained to 
amuse Fyne. But I soon discovered that he could 
hardly tell one from the other, though obviously their 
presence met with his solemn approval. These girls in 
fact came for Mrs. Fyne. They treated her with ad- 
miring deference. She answered to some need of theirs. 
They sat at her feet. They were like disciples. It was 
very curious. Of Fyne they took but scanty notice. 
As to myself, I was made to feel that I did not exist, 

"After tea we would sit down to chess and then 
Fyne's everlasting gravity became faintly tinged by an 
attenuated gleam of something inward which re- 
sembled sly satisfaction. Of the divine frivolity of 
laughter he was only capable over a chess-board. Cer- 
tain positions of the game struck him as humorous, 
which nothing else on earth could do. . . ." 

"He used to beat you," I asserted with confidence. 

"Yes. He used to beat me," Marlow owned up 

So he and Fyne played two games after tea. The 
children romped together outside, gravely, unplayfully, 
as one would expect from Fyne's children, and Mrs. 
Fyne would be gone to the bottom of the garden with 
the girl-friend of the week. She always walked off 


directly after tea with her arm round the girl-friend's 
waist. Marlow said that there was only one girl-friend 
with whom he had conversed at all. It had happened 
quite unexpectedly, long after he had given up all 
hope of getting into touch with these reserved girl- 

One day he saw a woman walking about on the edge 
of a high quarry, which rose a sheer hundred feet, at 
least, from the road winding up the hill out of which it 
had been excavated. He shouted warningly to her 
from below where he happened to be passing. She 
was really in considerable danger. At the sound of his 
voice she started back and retreated out of his sight 
amongst some young Scotch firs growing near the very 
brink of the precipice. 

"I sat down on a bank of grass," Marlow went on. 
" She had given me a turn. The hem of her skirt seemed 
to float over that awful sheer drop, she was so close to 
the edge. An absurd thing to do. A perfectly mad 
trick — for no conceivable object! I was reflecting on 
the foolhardiness of the average girl and remembering 
some other instances of the kind, when she came into 
view walking down the steep curve of the road. She 
had Mrs. Pyne's walking-stick and was escorted by the 
Fyne dog. Her dead white face struck me with aston- 
ishment, so that I forgot to raise my hat. I just sat 
and stared. The dog, a vivacious and amiable animal 
which for some inscrutable reason had bestowed his 
friendship on my unworthy self, rushed up the bank 
demonstratively and insinuated himself under my arm. 

"The girl-friend (it was one of them) went past some 
way as though she had not seen me, then stopped and 
called the dog to her several times; but he only nestled 
closer to my side, and when I tried to push him away 
developed that remarkable power of internal resistance 


by which a dog makes himself practically immovable 
by anything short of a kick. She looked over her 
shoulder and her arched eyebrows frowned above her 
blanched face. It was almost a scowl. Then the ex- . 
pression changed. She looked unhappy. 'Come 
here!' she cried once more in an angry and distressed 
tone. I took off my hat at last, but the dog, hanging 
out his tongue with that cheerfully imbecile expression 
some dogs know so well how to put on when it suits 
their purpose, pretended to be deaf. 

" She cried from the distance desperately. 

'"Perhaps you will take him to the cottage then. I 
can't wait.' 

"'I won't be responsible for that dog,' I protested, 
getting down the bank and advancing towards her. She 
looked very hurt, apparently by the desertion of the 
dog. 'But if you let me walk with you he will follow 
us all right,' I suggested. 

"She moved on without answering me. The dog 
launched himself suddenly full speed down the road, 
receding from us in a small cloud of dust. It vanished 
in the distance, and presently we came up with him 
lying on the grass. He panted in the shade of the 
hedge with shining eyes, but pretended not to see us. 
We had not exchanged a word so far. The girl by my 
side gave him a scornful glance in passing. 

'"He offered to come with me,' she remarked bitterly. 

'"And then abandoned you!' I sympathized. 'It 
looks very unchivalrous. But that's merely his want of 
tact. I believe he meant to protest against your reck- 
less proceedings. What made you come so near the 
edge of that quarry? The earth might have given way. 
Haven't you noticed a smashed fir tree at the bottom? 
Tumbled over only the other morning after a night's 


"'I don't see why I shouldn't be as reckless as I 

" I was nettled by her brusque manner of asserting her 
folly, and I told her that neither did I as far as that 
went, in a tone which almost suggested that she was 
welcome to break her neck for all I cared. This was 
considerably more than I meant, but I don't like rude 
girls. I had been introduced to her only the day be- 
fore — at the round tea-table — and she had barely 
acknowledged the introduction. I had not caught 
her name, but I had noticed her fine, arched eye- 
brows which, so the physiognomists say, are a sign of 

"I examined her appearance quietly. Her hair was 
nearly black, her eyes blue, deeply shaded by long dark 
eyelashes. She had a little colour now. She looked 
straight before her; the corner of her lip on my side 
drooped a little; her chin was fine, somewhat pointed. I 
went on to say that some regard for others should stand 
in the way of one's playing with danger. I urged play- 
fully the distress of the poor Fynes in case of accident, if 
nothing else. I told her that she did not know the 
bucolic mind. Had she given occasion for a coroner's 
inquest the verdict would have been suicide, with the 
implication of unhappy love. They would never be 
able to understand that she had taken the trouble to 
climb over two post-and-rail fences only for the fun of 
being reckless. Indeed, even as I talked chaffingly, I 
was greatly struck myself by the fact. She retorted 
that, once one was dead, what horrid people thought of 
one did not matter. It was said with infinite contempt; 
but something like a suppressed quaver in the voice 
made me look at her again. I perceived then that her 
thick eyelashes were wet. This surprising discovery 
silenced me as you may guess. She looked unhappy. 


And — I don't know how to say it — well — it suited her. 
The clouded brow, the pained mouth, the vague fixed 
glance! A victim. And this characteristic aspect 
made her attractive; an individual touch — you know. 

"The dog had run on ahead and now gazed at us by 
the side of the Fyne's garden gate in a tense attitude and 
wagging his stumpy tail very, very slowly, with an air of 
concentrated attention. "The girl-friend of the Fynes 
bolted violently through the aforesaid gate and into the 
cottage, leaving me on the road — astounded. 

"A couple of hours afterwards I returned to the 
cottage for chess as usual. I saw neither the girl nor 
Mrs. Fyne then. We had our two games and on 
parting I warned Fyne that I was called to town on 
business and might be away for some time. He re- 
gretted it very much. His brother-in-law was ex- 
pected next day but he didn't know whether he was a 
chess-player. Captain Anthony ('the son of the poet 
— you know') was of a retiring disposition, shy with 
strangers, unused to society, and very much devoted to 
his calling, Fyne explained. All the time they had been 
married he could be induced only once before to come 
and stay with them for a few days. He had had a 
rather unhappy boyhood; and it made him a silent man. 
But no doubt, concluded Fyne, as if dealing portent- 
ously with a mystery, we two sailors should find much to 
say to one another. 

"This point was never settled. I was detained in 
town from week to week till it seemed hardly worth 
while to go back. But as I had kept on my rooms in 
the farm-house I concluded to go down again for a few 

"It was late, deep dusk, when I got out at our little 
country station. My eyes fell on the unmistakable 
hroad back and the muscular legs in cycling stockings of 


little Fyne. He passed along the carriages rapidly 
towards the rear of the train, which presently pulled out 
and left him solitary at the end of the rustic platform. 
When he came back to where I waited I perceived that 
he was much perturbed, so perturbed as to forget the 
convention of the usual greetings.' He only exclaimed 
Oh! on recognizing me, and stopped irresolute. When 
I asked him if he had been expecting somebody by 
that train he didn't seem to know. He stammered 
disconnectedly. I looked hard at him. To all ap- 
pearances he was perfectly sober; moreover, to suspect 
Fyne of a lapse from the proprieties high or low, great or 
small, was absurd. He was also a too serious and de- 
liberate person to go mad suddenly. But as he seemed 
to have forgotten that he had a tongue in his head I 
concluded I would leave him to his mystery. To my 
surprise he followed me out of the station and kept by 
my side, though I did not encourage him. I did not, 
however, repulse his attempts at conversation. He was 
no longer expecting me, he said. He had given me up. 
The weather had been uniformly fine — and so on. 1 
gathered also that the son of the poet had curtailed his 
stay somewhat and had gone back to his ship the day 

" That information touched me but little. Believing 
in heredity in moderation, I knew well how sea-life 
fashions a man outwardly and stamps his soul with the 
mark of a certain prosaic fitness — because a sailor is not 
an adventurer. I expressed no regret at missing 
Captain Anthony, and we proceeded in silence till, on 
approaching the holiday cottage, Fyne suddenly and un- 
expectedly broke it by the hurried declaration that he 
would go on with me a little farther. 

"'Go with you to your door,' he mumbled, and 
started forward to the little gate where the shadowy 


figure of Mrs. Fyne hovered, clearly on the look out for 
him. She was alone. The children must have been 
already in bed, and I saw no attending girl-friend 
shadow near her vague but unmistakable form, half -lost 
in the obscurity of the little garden. 

"I heard Fyne exclaim 'Nothing,' and then Mrs. 
Fyne's well-trained, responsible voice uttered the words, 
'It's what I have said,' with incisive equanimity. By 
that time I had passed on, raising my hat. Almost at 
once Fyne caught me up and slowed down to my stroll- 
ing gait which must have been infinitely irksome to his 
high pedestrian faculties. I am sure that all his 
muscular person must have suffered from awful physical 
boredom; but he did not attempt to charm it away by 
conversation. He preserved a portentous and dreary 
silence. And I was bored too. Suddenly I perceived 
the menace of even worse boredom. Yes! He was so 
silent because he had something to tell me. 

"I became extremely frightened. But man, reckless 
animal, is so made that in him curiosity, the paltriest 
curiosity, will overcome all terrors, every disgust, and 
even despair itself. To my laconic invitation to come 
in for a drink he answered by a deep, gravely accented : 
'Thanks, I will,' as though it were a response in chupch. 
His face as seen in the lamplight gave me no clue to the 
character of the impending communication; as indeed 
from the nature of things it couldn't do, its normal 
expression being already that of the utmost possible 
seriousness. It was perfect and immovable; and for a 
certainty if he had something excruciatingly funny to 
tell me it would be all the same. 

"He gazed at me earnestly and delivered himself of 
some weighty remarks on Mrs. Fyne's desire to befriend, 
counsel, and guide young girls of all sorts on the path 
q£ life. It was a voluntary mission. He approved his 


wife's action and also her views and principles in 

"All this with a solemn countenance and in deep 
measured tones. Yet somehow I got an irresistible 
conviction that he was exasperated by something in 
particular. In the unworthy hope of being amused by 
the misfortunes of a fellow-creature I asked him point- 
blank what was wrong now. 

"What was wrong was that a girl-friend was missing. 
She had been missing precisely since six o'clock that 
morning. The woman who did the work of the cottage 
saw her going out at that hour, for a walk. The 
pedestrian Fyne's ideas of a walk were extensive, but 
the girl did not turn up for lunch, nor yet for tea, nor 
yet for dinner. She had not turned up by footpath, 
road or rail. He had been reluctant to make inquiries. 
It would have set all the village talking. The Fynes 
had expected her to reappear every moment, till the 
shades of the night and the silence of slumber had 
stolen gradually over the wide and peaceful rural land- 
scape commanded by the cottage. 

"After telling me that much, Fyne sat helpless in un- 
conclusive agony. Going to bed was out of the ques- 
tion — neither could any steps be taken just then. What 
to do with himself he did not know! 

"I asked him if this was the same young lady I saw a 
day or two before I went to town? He really could not 
remember. Was she a girl with dark hair and blue 
eyes? I asked further. He really couldn't tell what 
colour her eyes were. He was very unobservant except 
as to the peculiarities of footpaths, on which he was an 

"I thought with amazement and some admiration 
that Mrs. Fyne's young disciples were to her husband's 
gravity no more than evanescent shadows. However, 


with but little hesitation Fyne venture to affirm that— 
yes, her hair was of some dark shade. 

"'We had a good deal to do with that girl first and 
last,' he explained solemnly; then getting up as if 
moved by a spring, he snatched his cap off the table. 
'She may be back in the cottage,' he cried in his bass 
'/oice. I followed him out on the road. 

"It was one of those dewy, clear, starry nights, op- 
pressing our spirit, crushing our pride, by the brilliant 
evidence of the awful loneliness, of the hopeless obscure 
insignificance of our globe lost in the splendid revelation 
of a glittering, soulless universe. I hate such skies. 
Daylight is friendly to man toiling under a sun which 
warms his heart; and cloudy soft nights are more kindly 
to our littleness. I nearly ran back again to my lighted 
parlour; Fyne fussing in a knickerbocker suit before the 
hosts of heaven, on a shadowy earth, about a transient, 
phantom-like girl, seemed too ridiculous to associate 
with. On the other hand there was something fas- 
cinating in the very absurdity. He cut along in 
his best pedestrian style and I found myself let in 
for a spell of severe exercise at eleven o'clock at 

"In the distance over the fields and trees smudging and 
blotching the vast obscurity, one lighted window of the 
cottage with the blind up was like a bright beacon kept 
alight to guide the lost wanderer. Inside, at the table 
bearing the lamp, we saw Mrs. Fyne sitting with folded 
arms and not a hair of her head out of place. She 
looked exactly like a governess who had put the children 
to bed; and her manner to me was just the neutral 
manner of a governess. To her husband, too, for that 

"Fyne told her that I was fully informed. Not a 
muscle of her ruddy, smooth, handsome face moved. 


She had schooled herself into that sort of thing. Hav- 
ing seen two successive wives of the delicate poet chivied 
and worried into their graves, she had adopted that 
cool, detached manner to meet her gifted father's out- 
breaks of selfish temper. It had now become a second 
nature. I suppose she was always like that; even in the 
very hour of elopement with Fyne. That transaction 
when one remembered it in ,her presence acquired a 
quaintly marvellous aspect to one's imagination. But 
sotnehow her self-possession matched very well little 
Fyne's invariable solemnity. 

"I was rather sorry for him. Wasn't he worried ! The 
agony of solemnity. At the same time I was amused. I 
didn't take a gloomy view of that 'vanishing girl' 
trick. Somehow I couldn't. But I said nothing. 
None of us said anything. We sat about that big 
round table as if assembled for a conference and looked 
at each other in a sort of fatuous consternation. I 
would have ended by laughing outright if I had not 
been saved from that impropriety by poor Fyne be- 
coming preposterous. 

"He began with grave anguish to talk of going to the 
police in the morning, of printing descriptive bills, of 
setting people to drag the ponds for miles around, 
ft was extremely gruesome. I murmured something 
about communicating with the young lady's relatives. 
It seemed to me a very natural suggestion; but Fyne 
and his wife exchanged such a significant glance that I 
felt as though I had made a tactless remark. 

"But I really wanted to help poor Fyne; and as I could 
see that, manlike, he suffered from the present inability 
to act, the passive waiting, I said: 'Nothing of this 
can be done till to-morrow. But as you have given me 
an insight into the nature of your thoughts I can tell you 
what may be done at once. We may go and look at the 


bottom of the old quarry which is on the level of the 
road, about a mile from here.' 

"The couple made big eyes at this, and then I told 
them of my meeting with the girl. You may be sur- 
prised, but I assure you I had not perceived this aspect 
of it till that very moment. It was like a startling 
revelation; the past throwing a sinister light on the 
luture. Fyne opened his mouth gravely and as gravely 
shut it. Nothing more. Mrs. Fyne said, 'You had 
better go,' with an air as if her self-possession had been 
pricked with a pin in some secret place. 

"And I — you know how stupid I can be at times — I 
perceived with dismay for the first time that by pan- 
dering to Fyne's morbid fancies I had let myself in for 
some more severe exercise. And wasn't I sorry I spoke ! 
You know how I hate walking — at least on solid, rural 
earth; for I can walk a ship's deck a whole foggy night 
through, if necessary, and think little of it. There is 
some satisfaction too in playing the vagabond in the 
streets of a big town till the sky pales above the ridges of 
the roofs. I have done that repeatedly for pleasure — of 
a sort. But to tramp the slumbering country-side in 
the dark is for me a wearisome nightmare of exertion. 

" With perfect detachment Mrs. Fyne watched me go 
out after her husband. That woman was flint. 

" The fresh night had a smell of soil, of turned-up sods 
like a grave — an association particularly odious to a 
sailor by its idea of confinement and narrowness; yes, 
even when he has given up the hope of being buried at 
sea; about the last hope a sailor gives up consciously 
after he has been, as it does happen, decoyed by some 
chance into the toils of the land. A strong grave-like 
sniff. The ditch by the side of the road must have been 
freshly dug in front of the cottage. 


"Once clear of the garden Fyne gathered way like a 
racing cutter. What was a mile to him — or twenty 
miles? You think he might have gone shrinkingly on 
such an errand. But not a bit of it. The force of 
pedestrian genius, I suppose. I raced by his side in a 
mood of profound self -derision, and infinitely vexed 
with that minx. Because dead or alive, I thought of 
her as a minx. . . ." 

I smiled incredulously at Marlow's ferocity; but 
Marlow, pausing with a whimsically retrospective air, 
never flinched. 

"Yes, yes. Even dead. And now you are shocked. 
You see, you are such a chivalrous masculine beggar. 
But there is enough of the woman in my nature to free 
my judgment of women from glamorous reticency. And 
then, why should I upset myself? A woman is not 
necessarily either a doll or an angel to me. She is a 
human being, very much like myself. And I have come 
across too many dead souls lying, so to speak, at the 
foot of high unscalable places for a merely possible 
dead body at the bottom of a quarry to strike my 
sincerity dumb. 

" The cliff -like face of the quarry looked forbiddingly 
impressive. I will admit that Fyne and I hung back 
for a moment before we made a plunge off the road into 
the bushes growing in a broad space at the foot of the 
towering limestone wall. These bushes were heavy 
with dew. There were also concealed mudholes in 
there. We crept and tumbled and felt about with our 
hands along the ground. We got wet, scratched, and 
plastered with mire all over our nether garments. 
Fyne fell suddenly into a strange cavity — probably a 
disused lime-kiln. His voice uplifted in grave distress 
sounded more than usually rich, solemn and profound. 
This was the comic relief of an absurdly dramatic situa- 


tion. While hauling him out I permitted myself to 
laugh aloud at last. Fyne, of course, didn't. 

" Ineednot tell you that we found nothing after a most 
conscientious search. Fyne even pushed his way into a 
decaying shed half-buried in dew-soaked vegetation. 
He struck matches, several of them too, as if to make 
absolutely sure that the vanished girl-friend of his wife 
was not hiding there. The short flares illuminated his 
grave, immovable countenance, while I let myself go 
completely and laughed in peals. 

" I asked him if he really and truly supposed that any 
sane girl would go and hide in that shed; and if so, why? 

"Disdainful of my mirth, he merely muttered his 
basso-profundo thankfulness that we had not found her 
anywhere about there. Having grown extremely 
sensitive (an effect of irritation) to the tonalities, I may 
say, of this affair, I felt that it was only an imperfect, 
reserved thankfulness, with one eye still on the possibili- 
ties of the several ponds in the neighbourhood. And I 
remember I snorted, I positively snorted, at that poor 

" What really jarred upon me was the rate of his walk- 
ing. Differences in politics, in ethics, and even in 
aesthetics need not arouse angry antagonism. One's 
opinion may change; one's tastes may alter — in fact 
they do. One's very conception of virtue is at the 
mercy of some felicitous temptation which may be 
sprung on one any day. All these things are perpetu- 
ally on the swing. But a temperamental difference, 
temperament being immutable, is the parent of hate. 
That's why religious quarrels are the fiercest of all. 
My temperament, in matters pertaining to solid land, 
is the temperament of leisurely movement, of deliberate 
gait. And there was that little Fyne pounding along 
the road in a most offensive manner; a man wedded to 


thick-soled, laced boots; whereas my temperament 
demands thin shoes of the lightest kind. Of course 
there could never have been question of friendship 
between us; but under the provocation of having to 
keep up with his pace I began to dislike him actively. 
I begged sarcastically to know whether he could tell me 
if we were engaged in a farce or in a tragedy. I wanted 
to regulate my feelings which, I told him, were in an 
unbecoming state of confusion. 

" But Fyne was as impervious to sarcasm as a turtle. 
He tramped on, and all he did was to ejaculate twice out 
of his deep chest, vaguely, doubtfully — 

'" I am afraid. • . . . I am afraid! . . .' 

"This was tragic. The thump of his boots was the 
only sound in a shadowy world. I kept by his side with 
a comparatively ghostly, silent tread. By a strange 
illusion the road appeared to run up against a lot of low 
stars at no very great distance, but as we advanced new 
stretches of whitey-brown ribbon seemed to come up 
from under the black ground. I observed, as we went 
by, the lamp in my parlour in the farm-house still 
burning. But I did not leave Fyne to run in and put 
it out. The impetus of his pedestrian excellence carried 
me past in his wake before I could make up my mind. 

'"Tell me, Fyne,' I cried, 'you don't think the girl 
was mad— do you?' 

" He answered nothing. Soon the lighted beacon-like 
window of the cottage came into view. Then Fyne 
uttered a solemn 'Certainly not,' with profound assur- 
ance. But immediately after he added a 'Very highly 
strung young person indeed,' which unsettled me again. 
Was it a tragedy? 

"'Nobody ever got up at six o'clock in the morning to 
commit suicide,' I declared crustily. 'It's unheard of! 
This is a farce.' 


"As a matter of fact it was neither farce nor tragedy. 

"Coming up to thecottage we had a view of Mrs. Fyne 
inside, still sitting in the strong light at the round table 
with folded arms. It looked as though she had not 
moved her very head by as much as an inch since we 
went away. She was amazing in a sort of unsubtle 
Way; crudely amazing — I thought. Why crudely? I 
don't know. Perhaps because I saw her then in a crude 
light. I mean this materially — in the light of an un- 
shaded lamp. Our mental conclusions depend so much 
on momentary physical sensations — don't they? If 
the lamp had been shaded I should perhaps have gone 
home after expressing politely my concern at the 
Fyne's unpleasant predicament. 

Losing a girl-friend in that manner is unpleasant. It 
is also mysterious. So mysterious that a certain 
mystery attaches to the people to whom such a thing 
does happen. Moreover, I had never really understood 
the Fynes; he with his solemnity which extended to the 
very eating of bread and butter; she with that air of 
detachment and resolution in breasting the common- 
place current of their unexciting life, in which the cut- 
ting of bread and butter appeared to me, by a long way, 
the most dangerous episode. Sometimes I amused 
myself by supposing that to their minds this world of 
ours must be wearing a perfectly overwhelming aspect 
and that their heads contained respectively awfully 
serious and extremely desperate thoughts — and trying 
to imagine what an exciting time they must be having 
of it in the inscrutable depths of their being. My 
efforts had invested them with a sort of profundity. 

"But when Fyne and I got back into the room, then in 
the searching, domestic, glare of the lamp, inimical to 
the play of fancy, I saw these two stripped of every 
vesture it had amused me to put on them for fun. 


Queer enough they were. Is there a human being that 
isn't that — more or less secretly? But whatever their 
secret, it was manifest to me that it was neither subtle 
nor profound. They were a good, stupid, earnest 
eouple and very much bothered. They were that — 
with the usual unshaded crudity of average people. 
There was nothing in them that the lamplight might 
not touch without the slightest risk of indiscretion. 

" Directly we had entered the room Fyne announced 
the result by saying 'Nothing' in the same tone as at 
the gate on his return from the railway station. And 
as then Mrs. Fyne uttered an incisive 'It's what I've 
said,' which might have been the veriest echo of her 
words in the garden. We three looked at each other as 
if on the brink of a disclosure. I don't know whether 
she was vexed at my presence. It could hardly be 
called intrusion — could it? Little Fyne began it. It 
had to go on. We stood before her, plastered with the 
same mud (Fyne was a sight!), scratched by the same 
brambles, conscious of the same experience. Yes. 
Before her. And she looked at us with folded arms, 
with an extraordinary fullness of assumed responsibility. 
I addressed her. 

"'You don't believe in an accident, Mrs. Fyne, do 

" She shook her head in curt negation, while, caked in 
mud and inexpressibly serious-faced, Fyne seemed to be 
backing her up with all the weight of his solemn pres- 
ence. Nothing more absurd could be conceived. It 
was delicious. And I went on in deferential accents: 
'Am I to understand then that you entertain the 
theory of suicide?' 

"I don't know that I am liable to fits of delirium, but 
by a sudden and alarming aberration while waiting for 
her answer I became mentally aware of three trained 


dogs dancing on their hind legs. I don't know why. 
Perhaps because of the pervading solemnity. There's 
nothing more solemn on earth than a dance of trained 

"'She has chosen to disappear. That's all.' 

"In these words Mrs. Fyne answered me. The ag- 
gressive tone was too much for my endurance. In an 
instant I found myself out of the dance and down on all- 
fours so to speak, with liberty to bark and bite. 

"'The devil she has,' I cried. 'Has chosen to. . . . 
Like this, all at once, anyhow, regardless . . . I've 
had the privilege of meeting that reckless and brusque 
young lady, and I must say that with her air of an angry 
victim . . .' 

"'Precisely,' Mrs. Fyne said very unexpectedly like 
a steel trap going off. I stared at her. How provoking 
she was! So I went on to finish my tirade. 'She 
struck me at first sight as the most wrong-headed in- 
considerate girl that I ever . . .' 

'"Why should a girl be more considerate than any 
one else? More than any man, for instance?' inquired 
Mrs. Fyne with a still greater assertion of responsibility 
in her bearing. 

"Of course I exclaimed at this, not very loudly it is 
true, but forcibly. Were, then, the feelings of friends, 
relations, and even of strangers, to be disregarded? I 
asked Mrs. Fyne if she did not think it was a sort of 
duty to show elementary consideration, not only for the 
natural feelings, but even for the prejudices of one's 
fellow-creatures . 

"Her answer knocked me over. 

" 'Not for a woman.' 

"Just like that. I confess that I went down flat. And 
while in that collapsed state I learned the true nature of 
Mrs. Fyne's feminist doctrine. It was not political. 


it was not social. It was a knock-me-down doctrine — 
a practical individualistic doctrine. You would not 
thank me for expounding it to you at large. Indeed I 
think that she herself did not enlighten me fully. There 
must have been things not fit for a man to hear. But 
shortly, and as far as my bewilderment allowed me to 
grasp its naive atrociousness, it was something like 
this: that no consideration, no delicacy, no tenderness, 
no scruples should stand in the way of a woman (who 
by the mere fact of her sex was the predestined victim of 
conditions created by men's selfish passions, their vices 
and their abominable tyranny) from taking the shortest 
cut towards securing for herself the easiest possible 
existence. She had even the right to go out of existence 
without considering any one's feelings or convenience, 
since s&me women's existences were made impossible 
hy the short-sighted baseness of men. 

" I looked at her, sitting before the lamp at one o'clock 
in the morning, with her mature, smooth-cheeked face 
of masculine shape robbed of its freshness by fatigue; 
at her eyes dimmed by this senseless vigil. I looked 
also at Fyne; the mud was drying on him; he was ob- 
viously tired. The weariness of solemnity. But he 
preserved an unflinching, endorsing gravity of ex- 
pression. Endorsing it all as became a good, convinced 

"'Oh! I see,' I said. 'No consideration. . . . 
Well, I hope you like it.' 

"They amused me beyond the wildest imaginings of 
which I was capable. After the first shock, you under- 
stand, I recovered very quickly. The order of the 
world was safe enough. He was a civil servant and she 
his good and faithful wife. But when it comes to 
dealing with human beings anything, anything may be 
expected. So even my astonishment did not last very 


long. How far she developed and illustrated that 
conscienceless and austere doctrine to the girl-friends, 
who were mere transient shadows to her husband, 
I could not tell. Any length I supposed. And he 
looked on, acquiesced, approved, just for that very 
reason — because these pretty girls were but shadows to 
him. O! Most virtuous Fyne! He cast his eyes 
down. He didn't like it. But I eyed him with hidden 
animosity, for he had got me to run after him under 
somewhat false pretences. 

"Mrs. Fyne had only smiled at me very expressively, 
very self -confidently. 'Oh, I quite understand that 
you accept the fullest responsibility,' I said. 'I am 
the only ridiculous person in this — this — I don't know 
how to call it — performance. However, I've nothing 
more to do here, so I'll say good-night — or good morn- 
ing, for it must be past one.' 

"But before departing, in common decency, I offered 
to take any wires they might write. My lodgings were 
nearer the post office than the cottage and I would send 
them off the first thing in the morning. I supposed 
they would wish to communicate, if only as to the dis- 
posal of the luggage, with the young lady's rela- 
tives . . . 

" Fyne, he looked rather downcast by then, thanked 
me and declined. 

"There is really no one,' he said, very grave. 

'"No one,' I exclaimed. 

"'Practically,' said curt Mrs. Fyne. 

'And my curiosity was aroused again. 
'Ah! I see. An orphan.' 

"Mrs. Fyne looked away, weary and sombre, and 
Fyne said 'Yes' impulsively, and then qualified the 
affirmative by the quaint statement: 'To a certain 



"I became conscious of a languid, exhausted embar- 
rassment, bowed to Mrs. Fyne, and went out to the 
cottage to be confronted outside its door by the be- 
spangled, cruel revelation of the Immensity of the 
Universe. The night was not sufficiently advanced for 
the stars to have paled; and the earth seemed to me 
more profoundly asleep — perhaps because I was alone 
now. Not having Fyne with me to set the pace, I let 
myself drift, rather than walk, in the direction of the 
farm-house. To drift is the only reposeful sort of 
motion (ask any ship if it isn't) and therefore consistent 
with thoughtfulness. And I pondered: How can one 
be an orphan 'to a certain extent?' 

"No amount of solemnity could make such a statement 
other than bizarre. What a strange condition to be in. 
Very likely one of the parents only was dead? But no; 
it couldn't be, since Fyne had said just before that 
'there was really no one' to communicate with. No 
one! And then remembering Mrs. Fyne's snappy 
'Practically,' my thoughts fastened upon that lady as 
a more tangible object of speculation. 

"I wondered — and wondering, I doubted — whether 
she really understood herself the theory she had pro- 
pounded to me. Everything may be said — indeed 
ought to be said — providing we know how to say it. 
She probably did not. She was not intelligent enough 
for that. She had no knowledge of the world. She 
had got hold of words as a child might get hold of some 
poisonous pills and play with them for 'dear, tiny little 
marbles.' No! The domestic-slave daughter of Carleon 
Anthony and the little Fyne of the Civil Service (that 
flower of civilization) were not intelligent people. They 
were commonplace, earnest, without smiles and without 
guile. But he had his solemnities and she had her 
reveries, her lurid, violent, crude reveries. And I 


thought with some sadness that all these revolts and 
indignations, all these protests, revulsions of feeling, 
pangs of suffering and of rage, expressed but the un- 
easiness of sensual beings trying for their share in the 
joys of form, colour, sensations — the only riches of our 
world of senses. A poet may be a simple being, but he 
is bound to be various and full of wiles, ingenious and 
irritable. I reflected on the variety of ways the in- 
genuity of the late bard of civilization would be able to 
invent for the tormenting of his dependants. Poets not 
being generally f oresighted in practical affairs, no vision 
of consequences would restrain him. Yes. The Fynes 
were excellent people, but Mrs. Fyne wasn't the 
daughter of a domestic tyrant for nothing. There 
were no limits to her revolt. But they were excellent 
people. It was clear that they must have been ex- 
tremely good to that girl whose position in the world 
seemed somewhat difficult, with her face of a victim, 
her obvious lack of resignation and the bizarre status of 
orphan 'to a certain extent.' 

"Such were my thoughts, but in truth I soon ceased to 
trouble about all these people. I found that my lamp 
had gone out, leaving behind an awful smell. I fled 
from it up the stairs and went to bed in the dark. My 
slumbers — I suppose the one good in pedestrian exercise, 
confound it, is that it helps our natural callousness — my 
slumbers were deep, dreamless and refreshing. 

"My appetite at breakfast was not affected by my 
ignorance of the facts, motives, events and conclusions. 
I think that to understand everything is not good for 
the intellect. A well-stocked intelligence weakens the 
impulse to action; an overstocked one leads gently to 
idiocy. But Mrs. Fyne's individualist woman-doctrine, 
naively unscrupulous, flitted through my mind. The 
salad of unprincipled notions she put into these girl- 


friends' heads! Good innocent creature, worthy wife, 
excellent mother (of the strict governess type), she was 
as guileless of consequences as any determinist philoso- 
pher ever was. 

"As to honour — you know — it's a very fine mediaeval 
inheritance which women never got hold of. It wasn't 
theirs. Since it may be laid as a general principle that 
women always get what they want, we must suppose 
they didn't want it. In addition they are devoid of 
decency. I mean masculine decency. Cautiousness 
too is foreign to them — the heavy reasonable cautious- 
ness which is our glory. And if they had it they would 
make of it a thing of passion, so that its own mother — I 
mean the mother of cautiousness — wouldn't recognize 
it. Prudence with them is a matter of thrill like the 
rest of sublunary contrivances. 'Sensation at any 
cost,' is their secret device. All the virtues are not 
enough for them; they want also all the crimes for their 
own. And why? Because in such completeness there 
is power — the kind of thrill they love most. . . ." 

"Do you expect me to agree with all this?" I 

"No, it isn't necessary," said Marlow feeling the 
check to his eloquence, but with a great effort at 
amiability. "You need not even understand it. I 
continue: with such disposition, what prevents women 
— to use the phrase an old boatswain of my acquaint- 
ance applied descriptively to his captain — what pre- 
vents them from ' coming on deck and playing hell with 
the ship' generally, is that something in them precise 
and mysterious, acting both as restraint and as inspira- 1 
tion; their femininity, in short, which they think they 
can get rid of by trying hard, but can't, and never will. 
Therefore we may conclude that, for all their enter- 
prises, the world is and remains safe enough. Feeling, 


in my character of a lover of peace, soothed by that 
conclusion, I prepared myself to enjoy a fine day. 

"And it was a fine day; a delicious day, with the horror 
of the Infinite veiled by the splendid tent of blue; a day 
innocently bright like a child with a washed face, fresh 
like an innocent young girl, suave in welcoming one's 
respects like — like a Roman prelate. I love such days. 
They are perfection for remaining indoors. And I en- 
joyed it temperamentally in a chair, my feet up on 
the sill of the open window, a book in my hands and the 
murmured harmonies of wind and sun in my heart 
making an accompaniment to the rhythms of my au- 
thor. Then looking up from the page I saw outside a 
pair of grey eyes thatched by ragged yellowy-white 
eyebrows gazing at me solemnly over the toes of my 
slippers. There was a grave, furrowed brow surmount- 
ing that portentous gaze, a brown tweed cap set far 
back on the perspiring head. 

" ' Come inside,' I cried as heartily as my sinking heart 
would permit. 

"After a short but severe scuffle with his dog at the 
outer door, Fyne entered. I treated him without 
ceremony and only waved my hand towards a chair. 
Even before he sat down he gasped out — 

"'We've heard — midday post.' 

"Gasped out! The grave, immovable Fyne of the 
Civil Service gasped! This was enough, you'll admit, 
to cause me to put my feet to the ground swiftly. That 
fellow was always making me do things in subtle dis- 
cord with my meditative temperament. No wonder 
that I had but a qualified liking for him. I said with 
just a suspicion of jeering tone — 

"Of course. I told you last night on the road that it 
was a farce we were engaged in.' 

54 He made the little parlour resound to its foundations 


with a note of anger positively sepulchral in its depth of 
tone. 'Farce be hanged! She has bolted with my 
wife's brother, Captain Anthony.' This outburst was 
followed by complete subsidence. He faltered miser- 
ably as he added from force of habit: 'The son of the 
poet, you know.' 

"A silence fell. Fyne's several expressions were so 
many examples of varied consistency. This was the 
discomfiture of solemnity. My interest of course was 

"'But hold on,' I said. 'They didn't go together. 
Is it a suspicion or does she actually say that. . . .' 
She has gone after him,' stated Fyne in commina- 
tory tones. 'By previous arrangement. She con- 
fesses that much.' 

"He added that it was very shocking. I asked him 
whether he should have preferred them going off to- 
gether; and on what ground he based that preference. 
This was sheer fun for me in regard of the fact that 
Fyne's too was a runaway match, which even got into 
the papers in its time, because the late indignant poet 
had no discretion and sought to avenge this outrage 
publicly in some absurd way before a bewigged judge. 
The dejected gesture of little Fyne's hand disarmed my 
mocking mood. But I could not help expressing my 
surprise that Mrs. Fyne had not detected at once what 
was brewing. Women were supposed to have an un- 
erring eye. 

" He told me that his wife had been very much engaged 
in a certain work. I had always wondered how she 
occupied her time. It was in writing. Like her hus- 
band, she too published a little book. It had nothing 
to do with pedestrianism. It was a sort of handbook 
for women with grievances (and all women had them), 
a sort of compendious theory and practice of feminine 


free morality. It made you laugh at its transparent 
simplicity. But that authorship was revealed to me 
much later. I didn't of course ask Fyne what work his 
wife was engaged on; but I marvelled to myself at her 
complete ignorance of the world, of her own sex, and of 
the other kind of sinners. Yet, where could she have 
got any experience? Her father had kept her strictly 
cloistered. Marriage with Fyne was certainly a change, 
but only to another kind of claustration. You may 
tell me that the ordinary powers of observation ought 
to have been enough. Why, yes! But, then, as she 
had set up for a guide and teacher, there was nothing 
surprising for me in the discovery that she was blind. 
That's quite in order. She was a profoundly innocent 
person; only it would not have been proper to tell her 
husband so. 



"But there was nothing improper in my observing to 
Fyne that,, last night, Mrs. Fyne seemed to have some 
idea where that enterprising young lady had gone to. 
Fyne shook his head. No; his wife had been by no 
means so certain as she had pretended to be. She 
merely had her reasons to think, to hope, that the girl 
might have taken a room somewhere in London, had 
buried herself in town — in readiness or perhaps in 
horror of the approaching day 

"He ceased and sat solemnly dejected, in a brown 
study. 'What day?' I asked at last; but he did not 
hear me apparently. He diffused such portentous 
gloom into the atmosphere that I lost patience with 

"'What on earth are you so dismal about?' I cried, 
being genuinely surprised and puzzled. 'One would 
think the girl was a state prisoner under your care.' 

"And suddenly I became still more surprised at my- 
self, at the way I had somehow taken for granted things 
which did appear queer when one thought them out. < 

'"But why this secrecy? Why did they elope — if it 
is an elopement? Was the girl afraid of your wife? 
And your brother-in-law? What on earth possessed 
him to make a clandestine match of it? Was he afraid 
of your wife too?' 

"Fyne made an effort to rouse himself. 

"'Of course my brother-in-law, Captain Anthony, the 



son of . . .' He checked himself as if trying to 
break a bad habit. 'He would be persuaded by her. 
We have been most friendly to the girl!' 

'"She struck me as a foolish and inconsiderate little 
person. But why should you and your wife take to 
heart so strongly mere folly — or even a want of con- 

- '"It's the most unscrupulous action,' declared Fyne 
weightily — and sighed. 

1 '"I suppose she is poor,' I observed after a short 
silence. 'But after all . . .' 

"'You don't know who she is.' Fyne had regained 
his average solemnity. 

" I confessed that I had not caught her name when his 
wife had introduced us to each other. 'It was some- 
thing beginning with an S — wasn't it? ' And then with 
the utmost coolness Fyne remarked that it did not 
matter. The name was not her name. 

"'Do you mean to say that you made a young lady 
known to me under a false name?' I asked, with the 
amused feeling that the days of wonders and portents 
had not passed away yet. That the eminently serious 
Fyne should do such an exceptional thing was simply 
staggering. With a more hasty enunciation than usual 
little Fyne was sure that I would not demand an 
apology for this irregularity if I knew what her real 
name was. A sort? of warmth crept into his deep 

"'We have tried to befriend that girl in every way. 
She is the daughter and only child of de Barra.],' 

"Evidently he'expected to produce a sensation; but I 
merely returned his intense, awaiting gaze. For a 
time we stared at each other. Conscious of being 
reprehensibly dense I groped in the darkness of my 
mind: De Barral, de Barral — and all at once noise and 


light burst on me as if a window of my memory had been 
suddenly flung open on a street in the City. De 
Barral ! But could it be the same? Surely not! 
'The financier?' I suggested half incredulous. 

"'Yes,' said Fyne; and in this instance his native 
solemnity of tone seemed to be strangely appropriate. 
'The convict.'" 

Marlow looked at me, significantly, and remarked in 
an explanatory tone — 

" One somehow never thought of de Barral as having 
any children, or any other home than the offices of the 
'Orb'; or any other existence, associations or interests 
than financial. I see you remember the crash . . ." 

"I was away in the Indian Seas at the time," I said. 
"But of course " 

"Of course," Marlow struck in. "All the world. . . 
¥ou may wonder at my slowness in recognizing the 
name. But you know that my memory is merely a- 
mausoleum of proper names. In de Barral's case, it got 
put away in my mausoleum in company with so many 
names of his own creation that really he had to throw 
off a monstrous heap of grisly bones before he stood be- 
fore me at the call of the wizard Fyne. The fellow had 
a pretty fancy in names: the 'Orb' Deposit Bank, 
the 'Sceptre' Mutual Aid Society, the 'Thrift and 
Independence' Association. Yes, a very pretty taste 
in names; and nothing else besides — absolutely nothing 
— no other merit. Well, yes. He had another name, 
but that's pure luck — his own name of de Barral which 
he did not invent. I don't think that a mere Jones or 
Brown could have fished out from the depths of the 
Incredible such a colossal manifestation of human folly 
as that man did. But it may be that I am under- 
estimating the alacrity of human folly in rising to the 
bait. No doubt I am. The greed of that absurd 


monster is incalculable, unfathomable, inconceivable. 
The career of de Barral demonstrates that it will rise to 
a naked hook. He didn't lure it with a fairy tale. He 
hadn't enough imagination for it . . ." 

"Was he a foreigner?" I asked. "It's clearly a 
French name. I suppose it was his name? " 

"Oh, he didn't invent it. He was born to it, in 
Bethnal Green, as it came out during the proceedings. 
He was in the habit of alluding to his Scotch connections. 
But every great man has done that. The mother, I be- 
lieve, was Scotch, right enough. The father, de Barral, 
whatever his origins, retired from the Customs Service 
(tide-waiter I think), and started lending money in a 
very, very small way in the East End to people con- 
nected with the docks, stevedores, minor barge-owners, 
ship-chandlers, tally clerks, all sorts of very small fry. 
He made his living at it. He was a very decent man, I 
believe. He had enough influence to place his only son 
as junior clerk in the account department of one of the 
Dock Companies. 'Now, my boy,' he said to him, 
'I've given you a fine start.' But de Barral didn't 
start. He stuck. He gave perfect satisfaction. At 
the end of three years he got a small rise of salary and 
went out courting in the evenings. He went courting 
the daughter of an old sea-captain who was a church- 
warden of his parish and lived in an old badly preserved 
Georgian house with a garden: one of these houses 
standing in a reduced bit of "grounds" that you dis- 
cover in a labyrinth of the most sordid streets, exactly 
alike and composed of six-roomed hutches. 

"Some of them were the vicarages of slum parishes. 
The old sailor had got hold of one cheap, and de Barral 
got hold of his daughter — which was a good bargain for 
him. The old sailor was very good to the young couple 
and very fond of their little girl. Mrs. de Barral was an 


equable, unassuming woman, at that time with a fund of 
simple gaiety, and with no ambitions; but, woman-like, 
she longed for change and for something interesting to 
happen now and then. It was she who encouraged de 
Barral to accept the offer of a post in the West-End 
branch of a great bank. It appears he shrank from such 
a great adventure for a long time. At last his wife's 
arguments prevailed. Later she used to say: 'It's 
the only time he ever listened to me; and I wonder now 
if it hadn't been better for me to die before I ever made 
him go into that bank.' 

"You may be surprised at my knowledge of these de- 
tails. Well, I had them ultimately from Mrs. Fyne. 
Mrs. Fyne, while yet Miss Anthony, in her days of 
bondage, knew Mrs. de Barral in her days of exile. 
Mrs. de Barral was living then in a big stone mansion 
with mullioned windows in a large damp park, called 
the Priory, adjoining the village where the refined poet 
had built himself a house. 

"These were the days of de Barral's success. He had 
bought the place without ever seeing it and had packed 
off his wife and child at once there to take possession. 
He did not know what to do with them in London. He 
himself had a suite of rooms in an hotel. He gave there 
dinner parties followed by cards in the evening. He 
had developed the gambling passion — or else a mere 
card mania — but at any rate he played heavily, for 
relaxation, with a lot of dubious hangers on. 

"Meantime Mrs. de Barral, expecting him every day, 
lived at the Priory, with a carriage and pair, a governess 
for the child and many servants. The village people 
would see her through the railings wandering under the 
trees with her little girl, lost in her strange surround- 
ings. Nobody ever came near her. And there she 
died as some faithful and delicate animals die — from 



neglect, absolutely from neglect, rather unexpectedly 
and without any fuss. The village was sorry for her be- 
cause, though obviously worried about something she 
was good to the poor and was always ready for a chat 
with any of the humble folks. Of course they knew 
that she wasn't a lady— not what you would call a real 
lady. And even her acquaintance with Miss Anthony 
was only a cottage-door, a village-street acquaintance. 
Carleon Anthony was a tremendous aristocrat (his 
father had been a 'restoring' architect), and his 
daughter was not allowed to associate with any one but 
the county young ladies. Nevertheless, in defiance of 
the poet's wrathful concern for undefiled refinement, 
there were some quiet, melancholy strolls to and fro in 
the great avenue of chestnuts leading to the park-gate, 
during which Mrs. de Barral came to call Miss Anthony 
'my dear' — and even 'my poor dear.' The lonely 
soul had no one to talk to but that not very happy girl. 
The governess despised her. The housekeeper was 
distant in her manner. Moreover Mrs. de Barral was 
no foolish gossiping woman. But she made some con- 
fidences to Miss Anthony. Such wealth was a terrific 
thing to have thrust upon one, she affirmed. Once she 
went so far as to confess that she was dying with 
anxiety. Mr. de Barral (so she referred to him) had 
been an excellent husband and an exemplary father, 
but 'you see, my dear, I have had a great experience of 
him. I am sure he won't know what to do with all that 
money people are giving to him to take care of for them. 
He's as likely as not to do something rash. When he 
comes here I must have a good long serious talk with 
him, like the talks we often used to have together in the 
good old times of our life.' And then one day a cry 
of anguish was wrung from her: 'My dear, he will 
never come here, he will never, never come!* 


"She was wrong. He came to the funeral, was ex- 
tremely cut up, and holding the child tightly by ths 
hand wept bitterly at the side of the grave. Miss 
Anthony, at the cost of a whole week of sneers and abuse 
from the poet, saw it all with her own eyes. De Barral 
clung to the child like a drowning man. He managed, 
though, to catch the half-past five fast train, travelling 
to town alone in a reserved compartment, with all the 
blinds down . . ." 

"Leaving the child?" I said interrogatively. 

"Yes. Leaving ... He shirked the problem. 
He was born that way. He had no idea what to do with 
her or for that matter with anything or anybody in- 
cluding himself. He bolted back to his suite of rooms 
in the hotel. He was the most helpless . . . She 
might have been left in the Priory to the end of time had 
not the high-toned governess threatened to send in her 
resignation. She didn't care for the child a bit, and the 
lonely, gloomy Priory had got on her nerves. She 
wasn't going to put up with such a life and, having just 
come out of some ducal family, she bullied de Barral in 
a very lofty fashion. To pacify her he took a splendidly 
furnished house in the most expensive part of Brighton 
for them, and now and then ran down for a week-end, 
with a trunk full of exquisite sweets and with his hat full 
of money. The governess spent it for him in extra 
ducal style. She was nearly forty and harboured a sec- 
ret taste for patronizing young men of sorts — of a cer- 
tain sort. But of that Mrs. Fyne of course had no 
personal knowledge then; she told me, however, that 
even in the Priory days she had suspected her of being 
an artificial, heartless, vulgar-minded woman with the 
lowest possible ideals. But de Barral did not know it. 
He literally did not know anything . . ." 

"But tell me, Marlow," I interrupted, "how do you 


account for this opinion? He must have been a person- 
ality in a sense — in some one sense surely. You don't 
work the greatest material havoc of a decade at least, 
in a commercial community, without having something 
in you." 

Marlow shook his head. 

"He was a mere sign, a portent. There was nothing 
in him. Just about that time the word Thrift was to 
the fore. You know the power of words. We pass 
through periods dominated by this or that word — it 
may be development, or it may be competition, or 
education, or purity, or efficiency, or even sanctity. It 
is the word of the time. Well, just then it was the word 
Thrift which was out m the streets walking arm in arm 
with righteousness, the inseparable companion and 
backer up of all such national catch-words, looking 
everybody in the eye as it were. The very drabs of the 
pavement, poor things, didn't escape the fascination. 
. . . However! . . . Well, the greatest portion 
of the press was screeching in all possible tones, like a 
confounded company of parrots instructed by some 
devil with a taste for practical jokes, that the financier 
de Barral was helping the great moral evolution of our 
character towards the newly discovered virtue of Thrift. 
He was helping it by all these great establishments of 
his, which made the moral merits of Thrift manifest 
to the most callous hearts, simply by promising to pay 
ten per cent, interest on all deposits. And you didn't 
want necessarily to belong to the well-to-do classes in 
order to participate in the advantages of virtue. If 
you had but a spare sixpence in the world and went and 
gave it to de Barral it was Thrift! It's quite likely that 
he himself believed it. He must have. It's inconceiv- 
able that he alone should stand out against the in- 
fatuation of the whole world. He hadn't enough 


intelligence for that. But to look at him one couldn't 
tell . . ." 

"You did see him then? " I said with some curiosity. 

"I did. Strange, isn't it? It was only once, in the 
days of his glory or splendour. No! Neither of these 
words will fit his success. There was never any glory 
or splendour about that figure. Well, let us say in the 
days when he was*, according to the majority of the daily 
press, a financial force working for the improvement of 
the character of the people. I'll tell you how it came 

"At that time I used to know a podgy, wealthy, bald 
little man having chambers in the Albany; a financier, 
too, in his way, carrying out transactions of an intimate 
nature and of no moral character; mostly with young 
men of birth and expectations — though I dare say he 
didn't withhold his ministrations from elderly plebeians 
either. He was a true democrat; he would have done 
business (a sharp kind of business) with the devil him- 
self. Everything was fly that came into his web. He 
received the applicants in an alert, jovial fashion which 
was quite surprising. It gave relief without giving too 
much confidence, which was just as well perhaps. His 
business was transacted in an apartment furnished like 
a drawing-room, the walls hung with several brown, 
heavily framed, oil paintings. I don't know if they 
were good, but they were big, and with their elaborate, 
tarnished gilt-frames had a melancholy dignity. The 
man himself sat at an inlaid writing-table which looked 
like a rare piece from a museum of art; his chair had a 
high, oval, carved back, upholstered in faded tapestry; 
and these objects made of the costly black Havana 
cigar, which he rolled incessantly from the middle to 
the left corner of his mouth and back again, an in- 
expressibly cheap and nasty object. I had to see hira 


several times in the interest of a poor devil so unlucky 
that he didn't even have a more competent friend than 
myself to speak for him at a very difficult time in his 

"I don't know at what hour my private financier began 
his day, but he used to give one appointments at un- 
heard of times: such as a quarter to eight in the morn- 
ing, for instance. On arriving one found him busy at 
that marvellous writing-table, looking very fresh, ex- 
haling a faint fragrance of scented soap and with the 
cigar already well alight. You may believe that I 
entered on my mission with many unpleasant fore- 
bodings; but there was in that fat, admirably washed, 
little man such a profound contempt for mankind that 
it amounted to a species of good nature; which, unlike 
the milk of genuine kindness, was never in danger of 
turning sour. Then, once, during a pause in business, 
while we were waiting for the production of a docu- 
ment for which he had sent (perhaps to the cellar?) 
I happened to remark, glancing round the room, that 
I had never seem so many fine things assembled to- 
gether out of a collection. Whether this was uncon- 
scious diplomacy on my part, or not, I shouldn't like 
to say — but the remark was true enough, and it pleased 
him extremely. 'It is a collection,' he said emphati- 
cally. 'Only I live right in it, which most collectors 
don't. But I see that you know what you are looking 
at. Not many people who come here on business do. 
Stable fittings are more in their way.' 

"I don't know whether my appreciation helped to 
advance my friend's business, but at any rate it helped 
our intercourse. He treated me with a shade of fa- 
miliarity as one of the initiated. 

"The last time I called on him to conclude the trans- 
action we were interrupted by a person, something like, 


a cross between a bookmaker and a private secretary, 
who, entering through a doon which was not the ante- 
room door, walked up and stooped to whisper into his 

"'Eh? Who, did you say?' 

"The nondescript person stooped and whispered 
again, adding a little louder: 'Says he won't detain 
you a moment.' 

"My little man glanced at me, said 'Ah! Well,' 
irresolutely. I got up from my chair and offered to 
come again later. He looked whimsically alarmed. 
'No, no. It's bad enough to lose my money, but I 
don't want to waste any more of my time over your 
friend. We must be done with this to-day. Just go 
and have a look at that garniture de cheminee yonder. 
There's another, something like it, in the castle of 
Laeken, but mine's much superior in design.' 

"I moved accordingly to the other side of that big 
room. The garniture was very fine. But while pre- 
tending to examine it I watched my man going forward 
to meet a tall visitor, who said, 'I thought you would 
be disengaged so early. It's only a word or two ' — and 
after a whispered confabulation of no more than a 
minute, reconduct him to the door and shake hands 
ceremoniously. 'Not at all, not at all. Very pleased 
to be of use. You can depend absolutely on my in- 
formation' — 'Oh thank you, thank you. I just looked 
in.' ' Certainly, quite right. Anytime. . . . Good 

"I had a good look at the visitor while they were 
exchanging these civilities. He was clad in black. He 
wore a flat, broad, black satin tie in which was stuck 
a large cameo pin; and a small turn-down collar. His 
hair, discoloured and silky, curled slightly over his ears. 
His cheeks were hairless and round, and apparently 


soft. He carried himself stiffly, walked with small steps 
and spoke in a gentle, jnward voice. Perhaps from 
contrast with the magnificent polish of the room and 
the neatness of its owner, he struck me as indigent, and, 
if not exactly humble, then much subdued by evil for- 

"I wondered greatly at my fat little financier's civility 
to that dubious personage when he asked me, as we re- 
sumed our respective seats, whether I knew who it was 
that had just gone out. On my shaking my head 
negatively he smiled queerly, said 'De Barral,' and 
enjoyed my surprise. Then becoming grave : ' That's 
a deep fellow, if you like. We all know where he started 
from and where he got to; but nobody knows what he 
means to do.' He became thoughtful for a moment 
and added as if speaking to himself, 'I wonder what his 
game is.' 

"And, you know, there was no game, no game of any 
sort, or shape, or kind. It came out plainly at the trial. 
As I've told you before, he was a clerk in a bank, like 
thousands of others. He got that berth as a second 
start in life and there he stuck again, giving perfect 
satisfaction. Then one day as though a supernatural 
voice had whispered into his ear or some invisible fly 
had stung him, he put on his hat,, went out into the 
street and began advertising. That's absolutely all 
that there was to it. He caught in the street the word 
of the time and harnessed it to his preposterous chariot. 

"One remembers his first modest advertisements 
headed with the magic word Thrift, Thrift, Thrift, 
thrice repeated; promising ten per cent, on all deposits 
and giving the address of the Thrift and Independence 
Aid Association in Vauxhall Bridge Road. Apparently 
nothing more was necessary. He didn't even explain 
what he meant to do with the money he asked the pub- 


lie to pour into his lap. Of course he meant to lend it 
out at high rates of interest. He did so — but he did it 
without system, plan, foresight or judgment. And as 
he frittered away the sums that flowed in, he advertised 
for more — and got it. During a period of general busi- 
ness prosperity he set up The Orb Bank and The 
Sceptre Trust, simply, it seems, for advertising pur- 
poses. They were mere names. He was totally unable 
to organize anything, to promote any sort of enterprise 
if it were only for the purpose of juggling with the 
shares. At that time he could have had for the asking 
any number of Dukes, retired Generals, active M.P.'s, 
ex-ambassadors and so on as Directors to sit at the 
wildest boards of his invention. But he never tried. 
He had no real imagination. All he could do was to 
publish more advertisements and open more branch 
offices of the Thrift and Independence, of The Orb, of 
The Sceptre, for the receipt of deposits; first in this 
town, then in that town, north and south — everywhere 
where he could find suitable premises at a moderate 
rent. For this was the great characteristic of the 
management. Modesty, moderation, simplicity. Neither 
The Orb nor The Sceptre nor yet their parent the 
Thrift and Independence had built for themselves 
the usual palaces. For this abstention they were 
praised in silly public prints as illustrating in their 
management the principle of Thrift for which they were 
founded. The fact is that de Barral simply didn't 
think of it. Of course he had soon moved from Vaux- 
hall Bridge Road. He knew enough for that. What 
he got hold of next was an old, enormous, rat-infested 
brick house in a small street off the Strand. Strangers 
were taken in front of the meanest possible, begrimed, 
•yellowy, flat brick wall, with two rows of unadorned 
window-holes one above the other, and were exhorted 


with bated breath to behold and admire the simplicity 
of the head-quarters of the great financial force of the 
day. The word thrift perched right up on the roof in 
giant gilt letters, and two enormous shield-like brass- 
plates curved round the corners on each side of the door- 
way were the only shining spots in de Barral's business 
outfit. Nobody knew what operations were carried on 
inside except this — that if you walked in and tendered 
your money over the counter it would be calmly taken 
from you by somebody who would give you a printed 
receipt. That and no more. It appears that such 
knowledge is irresistible. People went in and tendered; 
and once it was taken from their hands their money 
was more irretrievably gone from them than if they had 
thrown it into the sea. This then, and nothing else, 
was being carried on in there . . ." 

"Come, Marlow," I said, "you exaggerate surely — 
if only by your way of putting things. It's too start- 

"I exaggerate!" he defended himself. "My way of 
putting things ! My dear fellow, I have merely stripped 
the rags of business verbiage and financial jargon off 
my statements. And you are startled! I am giving 
you the naked truth. It's true too that nothing lays 
itself open to the charge of exaggeration more than the 
language of naked truth. What comes with a shock is 
admitted with difficulty. But what will you say to the 
end of his career ! It began with the Orb Deposit Bank. 
Under the name of that institution de Barral, with the 
frantic obstinacy of an unimaginative man, had been 
financing an Indian prince who was prosecuting a claim 
for immense sums of money against the government. 
It was an enormous number of scores of lakhs — a 
miserable remnant of his ancestors' treasures — that sort 
of thing. And it was all authentic enough. There waa 


a real prince; and the claim too was sufficiently real — 
only unfortunately it was not a valid claim. So the 
prince lost his case on the last appeal, and the beginning 
of de Barral's end became manifest to the public in the 
.shape of a half-sheet of note-paper wafered by the four 
corners on the closed door of The Orb offices, notifying 1 
that payment was stopped at that establishment. 

"Its consort The Sceptre collapsed within the week. 
I won't say in American parlance that suddenly the 
bottom fell out of the whole of de Barral concerns. 
There never had been any bottom to it. It was like the 
cask of the Danaides into which the public had been 
pleased to pour its deposits. That they were gone was 
clear; and the bankruptcy proceedings which followed 
were like a sinister farce, bursts of laughter in a setting 
of mute anguish — that of the depositors; hundreds of 
thousands of them. The laughter was irresistible; the 
accompaniment of the bankrupt's public examination. 

"I don't know if it was from utter lack of all imagina- 
tion or from the possession in undue proportion of a 
particular kind of it, or from both — and the three alter- 
natives are possible — but it was discovered that this 
man who had been raised to such a height by the 
credulity of the public was himself more gullible than 
any of his depositors. He had been the prey of all 
sorts of swindlers, adventurers, visionaries, and even 
lunatics. Wrapping himself up in deep and imbecile 
secrecy he had gone in for the most fantastic schemes: 
a harbour and docks on the coast of Patagonia, quarries 
in Labrador — such-like speculations. Fisheries to feed 
a canning factory on the banks of the Amazon was one 
of them. A principality to be bought in Madagascar 
was another. As the grotesque details of these in- 
credible transactions came out, one by one, ripples of 
laughter ran over the closely packed court — each one a 


little louder than the other. The audience ended by 
fairly roaring under the cumulative effect of absurdity. 
The Registrar laughed, the barristers laughed, the 
reporters laughed, the serried ranks of the miserable 
depositors watching anxiously every word, laughed 
like one man. They laughed hysterically — the poor 
wretches — on the verge of tears. 

"There was only one person who remained unmoved. 
It was de Barral himself. He preserved his serene, 
gentle expression, I am told (for I have not witnessed 
those scenes myself), and looked around at the people 
with an air of placid sufficiency which was the first hint 
to the world of the man's overweening, unmeasurable 
conceit, hidden hitherto under a diffident manner. It 
could be seen too in his dogged assertion that if he had 
been given enough time and a lot more money every- 
thing would have come right. And there were some 
people (yes, amongst his very victims) who more than 
half believed him, even after the criminal prosecution 
which soon followed. When placed in the dock he lost 
his steadinesj as if some sustaining illusion had gone to 
pieces within him suddenly. He ceased to be himself 
in manner completely, and even in disposition, in so far 
that his faded neutral eyes matching his discoloured 
hair so well, were discovered then to be capable of ex- 
pressing a sort of underhand hate. He was at first de- 
fiant, then insolent, then broke down and burst into 
tears; but it might have been from rage. Then he 
calmed down, returned to his soft manner of speech and 
to that unassuming quiet bearing which had been usual 
with him even in his greatest days. But it seemed as 
though in this moment of change he had at last per- 
ceived what a power he had been; for he remarked to 
one of the prosecuting counsel who had assumed a lofty 
moral tone in questioning him, that — yes, he had 


gambled — he liked cards. But that only a year ago a 
host of smart people would have been only too pleased 
to take a hand at cards with him. Yes — he went on — 
some of the very people who were there accommodated 
with seats on the bench; and turning upon the counsel, 
'You yourself as well,' he cried. He could have had 
half the town at his rooms to fawn upon him if he 
had cared for that sort of thing. 'Why, now I think of 
it, it took me most of my time to keep people, just of 
your sort, off me,' he ended with a good-humoured, 
quite unobtrusive, contempt, as though the fact had 
dawned upon him for the first time. 

"This was the moment, the only moment, when he had 
perhaps all the audience in Court with him, in a hush of 
dreary silence. And then the dreary proceedings were 
resumed. For all the outside excitement it was the 
most dreary of all celebrated trials. The bankruptcy 
proceedings had exhausted all the laughter there was in 
it. Only the fact of widespread ruin remained, and the 
resentment of a mass of people for having been fooled 
by means too simple to save their self-respect from a deep 
wound which the cleverness of a consummate scoundrel 
would not have inflicted. A shamefaced amazement 
attended these proceedings in which de Barral was not 
being exposed alone. For himself his only cry was: 
Time! Time! Time would have set everything right. 
In time some of these speculations of his were certain to 
have succeeded. Sometimes, I am told, his appearance 
was ecstatic, his motionless pale eyes seemed to be 
gazing down the vista of future ages. Time — and of 
course, more money. "Ah! If only you had left me 
alone for a couple of years more," he cried once in 
accents of passionate belief. "The money was coming 
in all right." The deposits you understand — the sav- 
ings of Thrift. Oh yes they had been coming in to the 


very last moment. And he regretted them. He had 
arrived to regard them as his own by a sort of mystical 
persuasion. And yet it was a perfectly true cry, when 
he turned once more on the counsel who was beginning a 
question with the words 'You have had all these im- 
mense sums . . .' with the indignant retort, 'What 
have I had out of them?' 

"It was perfectly true. He had had nothing out of 
them — nothing of the prestigious or the desirable things 
of the earth, craved for by predatory natures. He had 
gratified no tastes, had known no luxury; he had built 
no gorgeous palaces, had formed no splendid galleries 
out of these 'immense sums.' He had not even a 
home. He had gone into these rooms in an hotel 
and had stuck there for years, giving no doubt per- 
fect satisfaction to the management. They had twice 
raised his rent to show, I suppose, their high sense of his 
distinguished patronage. He had bought for himself 
out of all the wealth streaming through his fingers 
neither adulation nor love, neither splendour nor com- 
fort. There was something perfect in his consistent 
mediocrity. His very vanity seemed to miss the grat- 
ification of even the mere show of power. In the 
days when he was most fully in the public eye the in- 
vincible obscurity of his origins clung to him like a 
shadowy garment. He had handled millions without 
ever enjoying anything of what is counted as precious 
in the community of men, because he had neither the 
brutality of temperament nor the fineness of mind to 
make him desire them with the will power of a master- 
ful adventurer . . ." 

"You seem to have studied the man," I observed. 

"Studied," repeated Marlow thoughtfully. "No! 
Not studied. I had no opportunities. You know that 
I saw him only on that one occasion I told you of. But 


it may be that a glimpse and no more is the proper way 
of seeing an individuality; and de Barral was that, in 
virtue of his very deficiencies, for they made of him 
something quite unlike one's preconceived ideas. I 
have not studied de Barral, but that is how I under- 
stand him so far as he could be understood through the 
din of the crash; the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the 
newspaper contents bills: 'The Thrift Frauds. Cross- 
• examination of the accused. Extra special' — blazing 
fiercely; the charitable appeals for the victims, the grave 
tones of the dailies rumbling with compassion as if they 
were the national bowels. All this lasted a whole week 
of industrious sittings. A pressman whom I knew told 
me, 'He's an idiot"; which was possible. Before thr\ 
I overheard once somebody declaring that he had a 
criminal type of face; which I knew was untrue. The 
sentence was pronounced by artificial light in a stifling 
poisonous atmosphere. Something edifying was said 
by the judge weightily, about the retribution overtaking 
the perpetrator of 'the most heartless frauds on an 
unprecedented scale.' I don't understand these things 
much, but it appears that he had juggled with accounts, 
cooked balance sheets, had gathered in deposits months 
after he ought to have known himself to be hopelessly 
insolvent, and done enough of other things, highly 
reprehensible in the eyes of the law, to earn for himself 
seven years' penal servitude. The sentence making its 
way outside met with a good reception. A small mob 
composed mainly of people who themselves did not look 
particularly clever and scrupulous, leavened by a slight 
sprinkling of genuine pickpockets, amused itself by 
cheering in the most penetrating, abominable cold 
drizzle that I remember. I happened to be passing 
there on my way from the East End where I had spent 
my day about the Docks with an old chum who was_ 


looking after the fitting out of a new ship. I am always 
eager, when allowed, to call on a new ship. They inter- 
est me like charming young persons. 

"I got mixed up in that crowd seething with an 
animosity as senseless as things of the street always are, 
and it was while I was laboriously making my way out 
of it that the pressman of whom I spoke was jostled 
against me. He did me the justice to be surprised. 
'What? You here! The last person in the world . . .' 
If I had known I could have got you inside. Plenty of 
room. Interest been over for the last three days. Got 
seven years. Well, I am glad.' 

'"Why are you glad? Because he's got seven years?' 
I asked, greatly incommoded by the pressure of a hulk- 
ing fellow who was remarking to some of his equally 
oppressive friends that the 'beggar ought to have been 
poleaxed.' I don't know whether he had ever con- 
fided his savings to de Barral, but if so, judging from 
his appearance, they must have been the proceeds of 
some successful burglary. The pressman by my side 
said 'No' to my question. He was glad because it was 
all over. He had suffered from the heat and the bad 
air of the court. The clammy, raw chill of the streets 
seemed to affect his liver instantly. He became 
contemptuous and irritable, and plied his elbows 
viciously, making way for himself and me. 

"A dull affair this. All such cases were dull. No 
really dramatic moments. The book-keeping of The 
Orb and all the rest of them was certainly a burlesque 
revelation, but the public did not care for revelations of 
that kind. Dull dog that de Barral — he grumbled. He 
could not or would not take the trouble to characterize 
for me the appearance of that man now officially a 
criminal (we had gone across the road for a drink), but 
told me with a sourly, derisive snigger that, after the 


sentence had been pronounced the fellow clung to the 
dock long enough to make a sort of protest. 'You 
haven't given me time. If I had been given time I 
would have ended by being made a peer like some of 
them.' And he had permitted himself his very first 
and last gesture in all these days, raising a hard- 
clenched fist above his head. 

"The pressman disapproved of that manifestation. It 
was not his business to understand it. Is it ever the 
business of any pressman to understand anything? I 
guess not. It would lead him too far away from the 
actualities which are the daily bread of the public mind. 
He probably thought the display worth very little from 
a picturesque point of view; the weak voice, the colour- 
less personality as incapable of an attitude as a bed-post, 
the very fatuity of the clenched hand so ineffectual at 
that time and place — no, it wasn't worth much. And 
then, for him, an accomplished craftsman in his trade, 
thinking was distinctly 'bad business.' His business 
was to write a readable account. But I, who had noth- 
ing to write, permitted myself to use my mind as we sat 
before our still untouched glasses. And the disclosure 
which so often rewards a moment of detachment from 
mere visual impressions gave me a thrill very much ap- 
proaching a shudder. I seemed to understand that, 
with the shock of the agonies and perplexities of his 
trial, the imagination of that man, whose moods, no- 
tions, and motives wore frequently an air of grotesque 
mystery — that his imagination had been at last roused 
into activity. And this was awful. Just try to enter 
into the feelings of a man whose imagination wakes up at 
the very moment he is about to enter the tomb. . . . 

"You must not think," went on Marlow after a pause, 
"that on that morning with Fyne I went consciously in 


my mind over all this, let us call it information; no, 
better say, this fund of knowledge which I had, or 
rather which existed, in me in regard to de Barral. 
Information is something one goes out to seek and puts 
away when found as you might do a piece of lead : pon- 
derous, useful, un vibrating, dull. Whereas knowledge 
comes to one, this sort of knowledge, a chance ac- 
quisition preserving in its repose a fine resonant quality. 
. . . But as such distinctions touch upon the 
transcendental I shall spare you the pain of listening to 
them. There are limits to my cruelty. No! I didn't 
reckon up carefully in my mind all this I have been tell- 
ing you. How could I have done so, with Fyne in the 
room? He sat perfectly still, statuesque in homely 
fashion, after having delivered himself of his effective 
assent: 'Yes. The convict,' and I, far from in- 
dulging in a reminiscent excursion into the past, re- 
mained sufficiently in the present to muse in a vague, 
absent-minded way on the respectable proportions and 
on the (upon the whole) comely shape of his pedestrian's 
calves, for he had thrown one leg over his knee, care- 
lessly, to conceal the trouble of his mind by an air of 
ease. But all the same the knowledge was in me, the 
awakened resonance of which I spoke just now. I said 
wondering, rather irrationally — 

" 'And so de Barral had a wife and child ! That girl's 
his daughter. And how . . .' 

"Fyne interrupted me by stating again earnestly, as 
though it were something not easy to believe, that his 
wife and himself had tried to befriend the girl in every 
way — indeed they had ! I did not doubt him for a mo 
ment, of course, but my wonder at this was more 
rational. At that hour of the morning, you mustn't 
forget, I knew nothing as yet of Mrs. Fyne's contact 
(it was hardly more) with de Barral's wife and child 


during their exile at the Priory, in the culminating days 
of that man's fame. 

"Fyne who had come over, it was clear, solely to talk to 
me on that subject, gave me the first hint of this initial, 
merely out of doors, connection. 'The girl was quite a 
child then,' he continued. 'Later on she was removed 
out of Mrs. Fyne's reach in charge of a governess' — a 
very unsatisfactory person,' he explained. His wife 
had then — h'm — met him ; and on her marriage she lost 
sight of the child completely. But after the birth of 
Polly (Polly was the third Fyne girl) she did not get on 
very well, and went to Brighton for some months to re- 
cover her strength — and there, one day in the street, the 
child (she wore her hair down her back still) recognized 
her outside a shop and rushed, actually rushed, into 
Mrs. Fyne's arms. Rather touching this. And so, 
disregarding the cold impertinence of that . . . 
h'm . . . governess, his wife naturally responded. 

"He was solemnly fragmentary. I broke in with the 
observation that it must have been before the crash. 

"Fyne nodded with deepened gravity, stating in his 
bass tone — 

"'Just before,' and indulged himself with a weighty 
period of solemn silence. 

"De Barral, he resumed suddenly, was not coming to 
Brighton for week-ends regularly, then. Must have 
been conscious already of the approaching disaster. 
Mrs. Fyne avoided being drawn into making his ac- 
quaintance, and this suited the views of the governess 
person, very jealous of any outside influence. But in 
any case it would not have been an easy matter. 
Extraordinary, stiff -backed, thin figure all in black, the 
observed of all, while walking hand-in-hand with the 
girl; apparently shy, but— and here Fyne came very 
near showing something like insight— probably nursing 


under a diffident manner a considerable amount of 
secret arrogance. Mrs. Fyne pitied Flora de Barral's 
fate long before the catastrophe. Most unfortunate 
guidance. Very unsatisfactory surroundings. The girl 
was known in the streets, was stared at in public places 
as if she had been a sort of princess, but she was kept, 
with a very ominous consistency, from making any 
acquaintances — though of course there were many 
people no doubt who would have been more than 
willing to — h'm — make themselves agreeable to Miss de 
Barral. But this did not enter into the plans of the 
governess, an intriguing person hatching a most sinister 
plot under her air of distant, fashionable exclusiveness. 
Good little Fyne's eyes bulged with solemn horror 
as he revealed to me, in agitated speech, his wife's 
more than suspicions, at the time, of that Mrs., Mrs. 
What's-her-name's perfidious conduct. She actually 
seemed to have — Mrs. Fyne asserted — formed a plot 
already to marry eventually her charge to an impecu- 
nious relation of her own — a young man with furtive 
eyes and something impudent in his manner, whom that 
woman called her nephew, and whom she was always 
having down to stay with her. 

" 'And perhaps not her nephew. No relation at all' — 
Fyne emitted with a convulsive effort this, the most 
awful part of the suspicions Mrs. Fyne used to impart 
to him piecemeal when he came down to spend his week- 
ends gravely with her and the children. The Fynes, in 
their good-natured concern for the unlucky child of the 
man busied in stirring casually so many millions, spent 
the moments of their weekly reunion in wondering earn- 
estly what could be done to defeat the most wicked of con- 
spiracies, trying to invent some tactful line of conduct in 
such extraordinary circumstances. I could see them, 
simple and scrupulous, worrying honestly about that 


unprotected big girl while looking at their own little girls 
playing on the seashore. Fyne assured me that his wife's 
rest was disturbed by the great problem of interference. 
"It was very acute of Mrs. Fyne to spot such a deep 
game,' I said, wondering to myself where her acuteness 
had gone to now, to let her be taken unawares by a 
game so much simpler and played to the end under her 
very nose. But then, at that time, when her nightly 
rest was disturbed by the dread of the fate preparing for 
de Barral's unprotected child, she was not engaged in 
writing a compendious and ruthless handbook on the 
theory and practice of life, for the use of women with a 
grievance. She could as yet, before the task of evolving 
the philosophy of rebellious action had affected her 
intuitive sharpness, perceive things which were, I sus- 
pect, moderately plain. For I am inclined to believe 
that the woman whom chance had put in command of 
Flora de Barral's destiny took no very subtle pains to 
conceal her game. She was conscious of being a com- 
plete master of the situation, having once for all 
established her ascendancy over de Barral. She had 
taken all her measures against outside observation of her 
conduct; and I could not help smiling at the thought 
what a ghastly nuisance the serious, innocent Fynes 
must have been to her. How exasperated she must 
have been by that couple falling into Brighton as com- 
pletely unforeseen as a bolt from the blue — if not so 
prompt. How she must have hated them! 

"But I conclude she would have carried out whatever 
plan she might have formed. I can imagine de Barral 
accustomed for years to defer to her wishes and, either 
through arrogance, or shyness, or simply because of his 
unimaginative stupidity, remaining outside the social 
pale, knowing no one but some card-playing cronies; 
I can picture him to myself terrified at the prospect of 


having the care of a marriageable girl thrust on his 
hands, forcing on him a complete change of habits and 
the necessity of another kind of existence which he 
would not even have known how to begin. It is evident 
to me that Mrs. What's-her-name would have had her 
atrocious way with very little trouble even if the ex- 
cellent Fynes had been able to do something. She 
would simply have bullied de Barral in a lofty style. 
There's nothing more subservient than an arrogant 
man when his arrogance has once been broken in some 
particular instance. 

"However there was no time and no necessity for any 
one to do anything. The situation itself vanished in 
the financial crash as a building vanishes in an earth- 
quake — here one moment and gone the next with only 
an ill omened, slight, preliminary rumble. Well, to say 
'in a moment' is an exaggeration perhaps; but that 
everything was over in just twenty-four hours is an 
exact statement. Fyne was able to tell me all about it; 
and the phrase that would depict the nature of the 
change best is: an instant and complete destitution. I 
don't understand these matters very well, but from 
Fyne's narrative it seemed as if the creditors or the 
depositors, or the competent authorities, had got hold 
in the twinkling of an eye of everything de Barral 
possessed in the world, down to his watch and chain, the 
money in his trousers' pocket, his spare suits of clothes, 
and I suppose the cameo pin out of his black satin 
cravat. Everything! I believe he gave up the very 
wedding ring of his late wife. The gloomy Priory with 
its damp park and a couple of farms had been made over 
to Mrs. de Barral; but when she died (without making a 
will) it reverted to him, I imagine. They got that of 
course; but it was a mere crumb in a Sahara of starva- 
tion, a drop in the thirsty ocean. I dare say that not a 


single soul in the world got the comfort of as much as a 
recovered threepenny bit out of the estate. Then, less 
than crumbs, less than drops, there were to be grabbed, 
the lease of the big Brighton house, the furniture there- 
in, the carriage and pair, the girl's riding-horse, her 
costly trinkets; down to the heavily gold-mounted collar 
of her pedigree St. Bernard. The dog too went: the 
most noble-looking item in the beggarly assets. 

"What however went first of all, or rather vanished, 
was nothing in the nature of an asset. It was that 
plotting governess with the trick of a 'perfect lady' 
manner (severely conventional) and the soul of a re- 
morseless brigand. When a woman takes to any sort 
of unlawful man-trade, there's nothing to beat her in 
the way of thoroughness. It's true that you will find 
people who'll tell you that this terrific virulence in 
breaking through all established things is altogether 
the fault of men. Such people will ask you with a 
clever air why the servile wars were always the most 
fierce, desperate and atrocious of all wars. And you 
may make such answer as you can — even the eminently 
feminine one, if you choose, so typical of the women's 
literal mind, T don't see what this has to do with it!' 
How many arguments have been knocked over (I won't 
say knocked down) by these few words! For if we 
men try to put the spaciousness of all experiences into 
our reasoning and would fain put the Infinite itself into 
our love, it isn't, as some writer has remarked, 'It isn't 
women's doing.' Oh, no. They don't care for these 
things. That sort of aspiration is not much in their 
way; and it shall be a funny world, the world of their 
arranging, where the Irrelevant would fantastically 
step in to take the place of the sober humdrum Imagina- 
tive. . . ." 
. I raised my hand to stop my friend Marlow. 


"Do you really believe what you have said?" I 
asked, meaning no offence, because with Marlow one 
never could be sure. 

"Only on certain days of the year," said Marlow 
with a malicious smile. "To-day I have been simply 
trying to be spacious and I perceive I've managed to 
hurt your susceptibilities which are consecrated to 
women. When you sit alone and silent you are de- 
fending in your mind the poor women from attacks 
which cannot possibly touch them. I wonder what 
can touch them? But to soothe your uneasiness 
I will point out again that an Irrelevant world would 
be very amusing, if the women would take care to 
make it as charming as they alone can, by preserv- 
ing for us certain well-known, well-established, I'll 
almost say hackneyed, illusions, without which the 
average male creature cannot get on. And that 
condition is very important. For there is nothing 
more provoking than the Irrelevant when it has ceased 
to amuse and charm; and then the danger would be of 
the subjugated masculinity in its exasperation, making 
some brusque, unguarded movement and accidentally 
putting its elbow through the fine tissue of the world of 
which I speak. And that would be fatal to it. For 
nothing looks more irretrievably deplorable than fine 
tissue which has been damaged. The women them- 
selves would be the first to become disgusted with their 
own creation. 

"There was something of women's highly practical 
sanity and also of their irrelevancy in the conduct of 
Miss de Barral's amazing governess. It appeared from 
Fyne's narrative that the day before the first rumble 
of the cataclysm the questionable young man arrived 
unexpectedly in Brighton to stay with his 'Aunt.' To 
all outward appearance everything was going on nor- 


mally; the fellow went out riding with the girl in the 
afternoon as he often used to do — a sight which never 
failed to fill Mrs. Fyne with indignation. Fyne himself 
was down there with his family for a whole week and 
was called to the window to behold the iniquity in its 
progress and to share in his wife's feelings. There 
was not even a groom with them. And Mrs. Fyne'9 
distress was so strong at this glimpse of the unlucky girl, 
all unconscious of her danger riding smilingly by, that 
Fyne began to consider seriously whether it wasn't 
their plain duty to interfere at all risks — simply by 
writing a letter to de Barral. He said to his wife with a 
solemnity I can easily imagine, 'You ought to under- 
take that task, my dear. You have known his wife 
after all. That's something at any rate.' On the other 
hand the fear of exposing Mrs. Fyne to some nasty 
rebuff worried him exceedingly. Mrs. Fyne on her side 
gave way to despondency. Success seemed impossible. 
Here was a woman for more than five years in charge of 
the girl and apparently enjoying the complete confi- 
dence of the. father. What, that would be effective, 
could one say, without proofs, without . . . This Mr. 
de Barral must be, Mrs. Fyne pronounced, either a very 
stupid or a downright bad man, to neglect his child so. 
"You will notice that perhaps because of Fyne's 
solemn view of our transient life and Mrs. Fyne's natu- 
ral capacity for responsibility, it had never occurred 
to them that the simplest way out of the difficulty was 
to do nothing and dismiss the matter as no concern of 
theirs. Which in a strict worldly sense it certainly was 
not. But they spent, Fyne told me, a most disturbed 
afternoon, considering the ways and means of dealing 
with the danger hanging over the head of the girl out 
for a ride (and no doubt enjoying herself) with an 
abominable scamp. 



4 "And the best of it was that the danger was all over 
already. There was no danger any more. The sup- 
posed nephew's appearance had a purpose. He had 
come, full, full to trembling — with the bigness of his 
news. There must have been rumours already as to 
the shaky position of the de Barral's concerns; but 
only amongst those in the very inmost know. No 
rumour or echo of rumour had reached the profane in 
the West End — let alone in the guileless marine 
suburb of Hove. The Fynes had no suspicion; the 
governess, playing with cold, distinguished exclusive- 
ness the part of mother to the fabulously Wealthy Miss 
de Barral, had no suspicion; the masters of music, of 
drawing, of dancing to Miss de Barral, had no idea; the 
minds of her medical man, of her dentist, of the servants 
in the house, of the tradesmen proud of having the 
name of de Barral on their books, were in a state of 
absolute serenity. Thus, that fellow, who had un- 
expectedly received a most alarming straight tip from 
somebody in the City, arrived in Brighton, at about 
lunchtime, with something very much in the nature of a 
deadly bomb in his possession. But he knew better 
than to throw it on the public pavement. He ate his 
lunch impenetrably sitting opposite Flora de Barral, 
and then, on some excuse closeted himself with the 
woman whom little Fyne's charity described (with a 
slight hesitation of speech however) as his 'Aunt.' 


"What they said to each other in private we can im- 
agine. She came out of her own sitting-room with red 
spots on her cheek-bones, which having provoked a 
question from her 'beloved' charge, were accounted 
for by a curt 'I have a headache coming on.' But we 
may be certain that the talk being over she must have 
said to that young blackguard: 'You had better take 
her out for a ride as usual.' We have proof positive of 
this in Fyne and Mrs. Fyne observing them mount at 
the door and pass under the windows of their sitting- 
room, talking together, and the poor girl all smiles; 
because she enjoyed in all innocence the company of 
Charley. She made no secret of it whatever to Mrs. 
Fyne; in fact, she had confided to her, long before, that 
she liked him very much: a confidence which had 
filled Mrs. Fyne with desolation and that sense of 
powerless anguish which is experienced in certain kinds 
of nightmare. For how could she warn the girl? She 
did venture to tell her once that she didn't like Mr. 
Charley. Miss de Barral heard her with astonishment. 
How was it possible not to like Charley? Afterwards 
with naive loyalty she told Mrs. Fyne that, immensely 
as she was fond of her, she could not hear a word against 
Charley — the wonderful Charley. 

"The daughter of de Barral probably enjoyed her jolly 
ride with the jolly Charley (infinitely more jolly than 
going out with a stupid old riding-master) very much 
indeed, because the Fynes saw them coming back at a 
later hour than usual. In fact it was getting nearly 
dark. On dismounting, helped off by the delightful 
Charley, she patted the neck of her horse and went up 
the steps. Her last ride. She was then within a few 
days of her sixteenth birthday, a slight figure in a riding- 
habit, rather shorter than the average height for her 
age, in a black bowler hat from under which her fine 


rippling dark hair cut square at the ends was hanging 
well down her back. The delightful Charley mounted 
again to take the two horses round to the mews. Mrs, 
Fyne remaining at the window saw the house door close 
on Miss de Barral returning from her last ride. 

"And meantime what had the governess (out of a 
nobleman's family) so judiciously selected (a lady, and 
connected with well-known county people as she said) 
to direct the studies, guard the health, form the mind, 
polish the manners, and generally play the perfect 
mother to that luckless child — what had she been doing? 
Well, having got rid of her charge by the most natural 
device possible, which proved her practical sense, she 
started packing her belongings, an act which showed 
her clear view of the situation. She had worked 
methodically, rapidly, and well, emptying the drawers, 
clearing the tables in her special apartment, with some- 
thing silently passionate in her thoroughness; taking 
everything belonging to her and some things of less un- 
questionable ownership, a jewelled penholder, an ivory 
and gold paper knife (the house was full of common, 
costly objects), some chased silver boxes presented by 
de Barral, and other trifles; but the photograph of 
Flora de Barral, with the loving inscription, which stood 
on her writing-desk, of the most modern and expensive 
style, in a silver-gilt frame, she neglected to take. Hav- 
ing accidentally, in the course of the operations, 
knocked it off on the floor, she let it lie there after a 
downward glance. Thus it, or the frame at least, 
became, I suppose, part of the assets in the de Barral 

"At dinner that evening the child found her company 
dull and brusque. It was uncommonly slow. She 
could get nothing from her governess but monosyllables, 
and the jojly Charley actually snubbed the various. 


cheery openings of his 'little chum' — as he used to call 
her at times — but not at that time. No doubt the 
couple were nervous and preoccupied. For all this we 
have evidence, and for the fact that Flora being offended 
with the delightful nephew of her profoundly respected 
governess sulked through the rest of the evening and 
was glad to retire early. Mrs., Mrs. — I've really for- 
gotten her name — the governess, invited her nephew to 
her sitting-room, mentioning aloud that it was to talk 
over some family matters. This was meant for Flora to 
hear, and she heard it — without the slightest interest. 
In fact there was nothing sufficiently unusual in such an 
invitation to arouse in her mind even a passing wonder. 
She went bored to bed, and being tired with her long 
ride slept soundly all night. Her last sleep, I won't 
say of innocence — that word would not render my exact 
meaning, because it has a special meaning of its own — 
but I will say: of that ignorance, or better still, of that 
unconsciousness of the world's ways, the unconscious- 
ness of danger, of pain, of humiliation, of bitterness, of 
falsehood. An unconsciousness which in the case of 
other beings like herself is removed by a gradual 
process of experience and information, often only partial 
at that, with saving reserves, softening doubts, veiling 
theories. Her unconsciousness of the evil which lives in 
the secret thoughts and therefore in the open acts of 
mankind, whenever it happens that evil thought meets 
evil courage; her unconsciousness was to be broken into 
with profane violence, with desecrating circumstances 
like a temple violated by a mad, vengeful impiety. 
Yes, that very young girl, almost no more than a child — 
this was what was going to happen to her. And if you 
ask me how, wherefore, for what reason? I will answer 
you: Why, by chance! By the merest chance, as 
things do happen, lucky and unlucky, terrible or tender, 


important or unimportant; and even things which are 
neither, things so completely neutral in character that 
you would wonder why they do happen at all if you 
didn't know that they, too, carry in their insignificance 
the seeds of further incalculable chances. 

"Of course, all the chances were that de Barral should 
have fallen upon a perfectly harmless, naive, usual, in- 
efficient specimen of respectable governess for his 
daughter; or on a commonplace silly adventuress who 
would have tried, say, to marry him or work some 
other sort of common mischief in a small way. Or 
again he might have chanced on a model of all the 
virtues, or the repository of all knowledge, or anything 
equally harmless, conventional, and middle class. All 
calculations were in his favour; but, chance being incal- 
culable, he fell upon an individuality whom it is much 
easier to define by opprobrious names than to classify in 
a calm and scientific spirit — but an individuality cer- 
tainly, and a temperament as well. Rare? No. 
There is a certain amount of what I would politely call 
unscrupulousness in all of us. Think for instance of the 
excellent Mrs. Fyne, who herself, and in the bosom of 
her family, resembled a governess of a conventional 
type. Only, her mental excesses were theoretical, 
hedged in by so much humane feeling and conventional 
reserves, that they amounted to no more than mere 
libertinage of thought; whereas the other woman, the 
governess of Flora de Barral, was, as you may have 
noticed, severely practical — terribly practical. No! 
Hers was not a rare temperament, except in its fierce 
resentment of repression; a feeling which like genius or 
lunacy is apt to drive people into sudden irrelevancy. 
Hers was feminine irrelevancy. A male genius, a male 
ruffian, or even a male lunatic, would not have behaved 
exactly as she did behave. There is a softness in 


masculine nature, even the most brutal, which acts as a 

"While the girl slept those two, the woman of forty, an 
age in itself terrible, and that hopeless young 'wrong 
'un' of twenty-three (also well connected I believe), 
had some sort of subdued row in the cleared rooms: 
wardrobes open, drawers half pulled out and empty, 
trunks locked and strapped, furniture in idle disarray, 
and not so much as a single scrap of paper left behind on 
the tables. The maid, whom the governess and the 
pupil shared between tbem, after finishing with Flora, 
came to the door as usual, bu* was not admitted. She 
heard the two voices in dispute before she knocked, and 
then being sent away retreated at once — the only 
person in the house convinced at that time that there 
was 'something up.' 

"Dark and, so to speak, inscrutable spaces being met 
with in life, there must be such places in any statement 
dealing with life. In what I am telling you of now — an 
episode of one of my humdrum holidays in the green 
country, recalled quite naturally after all the years by 
our meeting a man who has been a blue-water sailor — 
this evening confabulation is a dark, inscrutable spot. 
And we may conjecture what we like. I have no dif- 
ficulty in imagining that the woman — of forty, and the 
chief of the enterprise — must have raged at large. And 
perhaps the other did not rage enough. Youth feels 
deeply it is true, but it has not the same vivid sense of 
lost opportunities. It believes in the absolute reality of 
time. And then, in that abominable scamp no very 
genuine feeling about anything could exist — not even 
about the hazards of his own unclean existence. A 
sneering half -laugh with some such remark as: 'We are 
properly sold and no mistake ' would have been enough 
to make trouble in that way. And then another sneer, 


'Waste time enough over it too,' followed perhaps by 
the bitter retort from the other party, 'You seemed to 
like it well enough though, playing the fool with that 
chit of a girl.' Something of that sort. Don't you 
see it — eh? . . ." 

Marlow looked at me with his dark penetrating 
glance. I was struck by the absolute verisimilitude of 
this suggestion. But we were always tilting at each 
other. I saw an opening and pushed my uncandid 

"You have a ghastly imagination," I said with a 
cheerfully sceptical smile. 

" Well, and if I have," he returned unabashed. " But 
let me remind you that this situation came to me un- 
asked. I am like a puzzle-headed chief-mate we had 
once in the dear old Samarcand when I was a youngster. 
The fellow went gravely about trying to "account to 
himself — his favourite expression — for a lot of things 
no one would care to bother one's head about. He was 
an old idiot, but he was also an accomplished practical 
seaman. I was quite a boy and he impressed me. I 
must have caught the disposition from him." 

"Well — go on with your accounting then," I said, 
assuming an air of resignation. 

"That's just it." Marlow fell into his stride at 
once. "That's just it. Mere disappointed cupidity 
cannot account for the proceedings of the next morning; 
proceedings which I shall not describe to you — but 
which I shall tell you of presently, not as a matter of 
conjecture but of actual fact. Meantime returning to 
that evening altercation in deadened tones within the 
private apartment of Miss de Barral's governess, what 
if I were to tell you that disappointment had most likely 
made them touchy with each other, but that perhaps 
the secret of his careless, railing behaviour, was in the 


thought, springing up within him with an emphatic 
oath of relief, 'Now there's nothing to prevent me 
from breaking away from that old woman.' And that 
the secret of her envenomed rage, not against this 
miserable and attractive wretch, but against fate, 
accident and the whole course of human life, concentrat- 
ing its venom on de Barral and including the innocent 
girl herself, was in the thought, in the fear crying with- 
in her, 'Now I have nothing to hold him with. . . ."' 

T couldn't refuse Marlow the tribute of a prolonged 
whistle. "Phew! So you suppose that . . ." 

He waved his hand impatiently. 

"I don't suppose. It was so. And anyhow why 
shouldn't you accept the supposition. Do you look 
upon governesses as creatures above suspicion or 
necessarily of moral perfection? I suppose their 
hearts would not stand looking into much better than 
other people's. Why shouldn't a governess have pas- 
sions, all the passions, even that of libertinage, and even 
ungovernable passions;- yet suppressed by the very 
same means which keep the rest of us in order: early 
training — necessity — circumstances — fear of conse- 
quences; till there comes an age, a time when the 
restraint of years becomes intolerable — and infatuation 
irresistible? . . ." 

"But if infatuation — quite possible I admit," I 
argued, "how do you account for the nature of the con- 

"You expect a cogency of conduct not usual in 
women," said Marlow. "The subterfuges of a men- 
aced passion are not to be fathomed. You think it is 
going on the way it looks, whereas it is capable, for its 
own ends, of walking backwards into a precipice. 

"When one once acknowledges that she was not a 
common woman, then all this is, easily understood. 


She was abominable, but she was not common. She 
had suffered in her life not from its constant inferiority 
but from constant self-repression. A common woman 
finding herself placed in a commanding position might 
have formed the design to become the second Mrs. de 
Barral. Which would have been impracticable. De 
Barral would not have known what to do with a wife. 
But even if by some impossible chance he had made 
advances, this governess would have repulsed him with 
scorn. She had treated him always as an inferior being 
with an assured, distant politeness. In her composed, 
schooled manner she despised and disliked both father 
and daughter exceedingly. I have a notion that she 
had always disliked intensely all her charges including 
the two ducal (if they were ducal) little girls with whom 
she had dazzled de Barral. What an odious, ungratified 
existence it must have been for a woman as avid of all 
the sensuous emotions which life can give as most of her 
betters ! 

"She had seen her youth vanish, her freshness dis- 
appear, her hopes die, and now she felt her flaming 
middle-age slipping away from her. No wonder that 
with her admirably dressed, abundant hair, thickly 
sprinkled with white threads and adding to her elegant 
aspect the piquant distinction of a powdered coiffure — 
no wonder, I say, that she clung desperately to her last 
infatuation for that graceless young scamp, even to the 
extent of hatching for him that amazing plot. He was 
not so far gone in degradation as to make him utterly 
impossible for such an attempt. She hoped to keep 
him straight with that enormous bribe. She was 
clearly a woman uncommon enough to live without 
illusions — which, of course, does not mean that she was 
reasonable. She had said to herself, perhaps with a 
fury of self -contempt, 'In a few years I shall be too old 


for anybody. Meantime I shall have him — and I shall 
hold him by throwing to him the money of that or- 
dinary, silly little girl of no account.' "Well, it was a 
desperate expedient — but she thought it worth while. 
And besides there is hardly a woman in the world, no 
matter how hard, depraved or frantic, in whom some- 
thing of the maternal instinct does not survive, un- 
consumed like a salamander, in the fires of the most 
abandoned passion. Yes, there might have been that 
sentiment for him too. There was no doubt. So I say 
again: No wonder! No wonder that she raged at 
everything — and perhaps even at him, with contradic- 
tory reproaches: for regretting the girl, a little fool 
who would never in her life be worth anybody's 
attention, and for taking the disaster itself with 
a cynical levity in which she perceived a flavour of 

"And so the altercation in the night went on, over the 
irremediable. He arguing, 'What's the hurry? Why 
clear out like this?' perhaps a little sorry for the girl 
and as usual without a penny in his pocket, appreciating 
the comfortable quarters, wishing to linger on as long 
as possible in the shameless enjoyment of this already 
doomed luxury. There was really no hurry for a few 
days. Always time enough to vanish. And, with 
that, a touch of masculine softness, a sort of regard for 
appearances surviving his degradation: 'You might 
behave decently at the last, Eliza.' But there was no 
softness in the sallow face under the gala effect of 
powdered hair, its formal calmness gone, the dark- 
ringed eyes glaring at him with a sort of hunger. 'No! 
No ! If it is as you say, then not a day, not an hour, not 
a moment.' She stuck to it, very determined that 
there should be no more of that boy and girl philander- 
ing since the object of it was gone; angry with herself 


for having suffered from it so much in the past, furious 
at its having been all in vain. 

"But she was reasonable enough not to quarrel with 
him finally. What was the good? She found means to 
placate him. The only means. As long as there was 
some money to be got she had hold of him. 'Now go 
away. We shall do no good by any more of this sort of 
talk. I want to be alone for a bit.' He went away, 
sulkily acquiescent. There was a room always kept 
ready for him on the same floor, at the farther end of a 
short thickly carpeted passage. 

"How she passed the night, this woman, with no il- 
lusions to help her through the hours which must have 
been sleepless, I shouldn't like to say. It ended at 
last; and this strange victim of the de Barral failure, 
whose name would never be known to the Official 
Receiver, came down to breakfast, impenetrable in her 
everyday perfection. From the very first, somehow, 
she had accepted the fatal news for true. All her life 
she had never believed in her luck, with that pessimism 
of the passionate who at bottom feel themselves to be the 
outcasts of a morally restrained universe. But this did 
not make it any easier, on opening the morning paper 
feverishly, to see the thing confirmed. Oh, yes! It was 
there. The Orb had suspended payment — the first 
growl of the storm faint as yet, but to the initiated the 
forerunner of a deluge. As an item of news it was not 
indecently displayed. It was not displayed at all in a 
sense. The serious paper, the only one of the great 
dailies which had always maintained an attitude of re- 
serve towards the de Barral group of banks, had its 
'manner.' Yes! a modest item of news! But there 
was also, on another page, a special financial article in a 
hostile tone beginning with the words, 'We have al- 
ways feared,' and a guarded, half-column leader, open- 


ing with the phrase: 'It is a deplorable sign of the 
times,' what was, in effect, an austere, general rebuke 
to the absurd infatuations of the investing public. She 
glanced through these articles, a line here and a line 
there — no more was necessary to catch beyond doubt 
the murmur of the oncoming flood. Several slighting 
references by name to de Barral revived her animosity 
against the man, suddenly, as by the effect of unfore- 
seen moral support. The miserable wretch ! . . .' 

" — You understand," Marlow interrupted the cur- 
rent of his narrative, "that in order to be consecutive in 
my relation of this affair I am telling you at once the 
details which I heard from Mrs. Fyne later in the day, 
as well as what little Fyne imparted to me with his 
usual solemnity during that morning call. As you may 
easily guess, the Fynes, in their apartments, had read 
the news at the same time, and, as a matter of fact, in 
the same august and highly moral newspaper, as the 
governess in the luxurious mansion a few doors down 
on the opposite side of the street. But they read them 
with different feelings. They were thunderstruck. 
Fyne had to explain the full purport of the intelligence 
to Mrs. Fyne whose first cry was that of relief. Then 
that poor child would be safe from these designing, 
horrid people. Mrs. Fyne did not know what it might 
mean to be suddenly reduced from riches to absolute 
penury. Fyne with his masculine imagination was less 
inclined to rejoice extravagantly at the girl's escape 
from the moral dangers which had been menacing 
her defenceless existence. It was a confoundedly big 
price to pay. What an unfortunate little thing she 
was! 'We might be able to do something to comfort 
that poor child, at any rate for the time she is here,' 
said Mrs. Fyne. She felt under a sort of moral obliga- 


tion not to be indifferent. But no comfort for any one 
could be got by rushing out into the street at this early 
hour; and so, following the advice of Fyne not to act 
hastily, they both sat down at the window and stared 
feelingly at the great house, awful to their eyes in its 
stolid, prosperous, expensive respectability, with ruiD 
absolutely standing at the door. 

By that time, or very soon after, all Brighton had the 
information and formed a more or less just appreciation 
of its gravity. The butler in Miss de Barral's big 
house had seen the news, perhaps earlier than anybody 
within a mile of the Parade, in the course of his morning 
duties, of which one was to dry the freshly delivered 
paper before the fire — an occasion to glance at it which 
no intelligent man could have neglected. He com- 
municated to the rest of the household his vaguely 
forcible impression that something had gone d — • — bly 
wrong with the affairs of 'her father in London.' 

"This brought an atmosphere of constraint through 
the house, which Flora de Barral coming down some- 
what later than usual could not help noticing in her own 
way. Everybody seemed to stare so stupidly some- 
how; she feared a dull day. 

"In the dining-room the governess in her place, a news- 
paper half-concealed under the cloth on her lap, after a 
few words exchanged with lips that seemed hardly to 
move, remaining motionless, her eyes fixed before her in 
an enduring silence; and presently Charley coming in to 
whom she did not even give a glance. He hardly said 
good morning, though he had a half-hearted try to 
smile at the girl, and sitting opposite her with his eyes 
on his plate and slight quivers passing along the line of 
his clean-shaven jaw, he too had nothing to say. It 
was dull, horribly dull to begin one's day like this; but 
she knew what it was, These never-ending family 


affairs! It was not for the first time that she had 
suffered from their depressing after-effects on these two. 
It was a shame that the delightful Charley should be 
made dull by these stupid talks, and it was perfectly 
stupid of him to let himself be upset like this by his aunt. 

"When after a period of still, as if calculating, im- 
mobility, her governess got up abruptly and went out 
with the paper in her hand, almost immediately after- 
wards followed by Charley who left his breakfast half 
eaten, the girl was positively relieved. They would 
have it out that morning whatever it was, and be 
themselves again in the afternoon. At least Charley 
would be. To the moods of her governess she did not 
attach" so much importance. 

"For the first time that morning the Fynes saw the 
front door of the awful house open and the objection- 
able young man issue forth, his rascality visible to their 
prejudiced eyes in his very bowler hat and in the smart 
cut of his short fawn overcoat. He walked away 
rapidly like a man hurrying to catch a train, glancing 
from side to side as though he were carrying something 
off. Could he be departing for good? Undoubtedly, 
undoubtedly! But Mrs. Fyne's fervent 'thank good- 
ness' turned out to be a bit, as the Americans — some 
Americans — say 'previous.' In a very short time the 
odious fellow appeared again, strolling, absolutely 
strolling back, his hat now tilted a little on one side, 
with an air of leisure and satisfaction. Mrs. Fyne 
groaned not only in the spirit, at this sight, but in the 
flesh, audibly; and asked her husband what it might 
mean. Fyne naturally couldn't say. Mrs. Fyne 
believed that there was something horrid in progress 
and meantime the object of her detestation had gone up 
the steps and had knocked at the door which at once 
opened to admit him. 


"He had been only as far as the bank. 

"His reason for leaving his breakfast unfinished to run 
after Miss de Barral's governess, was to speak to her in 
reference to that very errand possessing the utmost 
possible importance in his eyes. He shrugged his 
shoulders at the nervousness of her eyes and hand, at 
the half -strangled whisper, 'I had to go out. I could 
hardly contain myself.' That was her affair. He was, 
with a young man's squeamishness, rather sick of her 
ferocity. He did not understand it. Men do not 
accumulate hate against each other in tiny amounts, 
treasuring every pinch carefully till it grows at last into 
a monstrous and explosive hoard. He had run out 
after her to remind her of the balance at the bank. 
What about lifting that money without wasting any 
more time? She had promised him to leave nothing 

"An account opened in her name for the expenses of 
the establishment in Brighton had been fed by de Barral 
with deferential lavishness. The governess crossed the 
wide hall into a little room at the side where she sat 
down to write the cheque, which he hastened out to go 
and cash as if it were stolen or a forgery. As observed 
by the Fynes, his uneasy appearance on leaving the 
house arose from the fact that his first trouble having 
been caused by a cheque of doubtful authenticity, the 
possession of a document of the sort made him unreas- 
onably uncomfortable till it was safely cashed. And 
after all you know it was stealing of an indirect sort; 
for the money was de Barral's money if the account 
was in the name of the accomplished lady. At any rate 
the cheque was cashed. On getting hold of the notes 
and gold he recovered his jaunty bearing, it being well 
known that with certain natures the presence of money 
(even stolen) in the pocket acts as a tonic, or at least as 


a stimulant. He cocked his hat a little on one side as 
though he had had a drink or two — which indeed he 
might have had in reality, to celebrate the occasion. 

"The governess had been waiting for his return in the 
hall, disregarding the side-glances of the butler as he 
went in and out of the dining-room clearing away the 
breakfast things. It was she, herself, who had opened 
the door so promptly. 'It's all right,' he said touching 
his breast-pocket; and she did not dare, the miserable 
wretch without illusions, she did not dare ask him to 
hand it over. They looked at each other in silence. 
He nodded significantly: 'Where is she now?' and she 
whispered, ' Gone into the drawing-room. Want to see 
her again?' with an archly black look which he ac- 
knowledged by a muttered, surly: T am damned if I 
do. Well, as you want to bolt like this, why don't we 
go now? ' 

"She set her lips with cruel obstinacy and shook her 
head. She had her idea, her completed plan. At that 
moment the Fynes, still at the window and watching 
like a pair of private detectives, saw a man with a long 
grey beard and a jovial face go up the steps helping 
himself with a thick stick, and knock at the door. Who 
could he be? 

"He was one of Miss de Barral's masters. She had 
lately taken up painting in water-colours, having read 
in a high-class woman's weekly paper that a great many 
princesses of the European royal houses were cultivating 
that art. This was the water-colour morning; and the 
teacher, a veteran of many exhibitions, of a venerable 
and jovial aspect, had turned up with his usual punc- 
tuality. He was no great reader of morning papers, 
and even had he seen the news it is very likely he 
would not have understood its real purport. At any 
rate he turned up, as the governess expected him to 


do, and the Fynes saw him pass through the fateful 

"He bowed cordially to the lady in charge of Miss de 
Barral's education, whom he saw in the hall engaged in 
conversation with a very good-looking but somewhat 
raffish young gentleman. She turned to him graciously : 
'Flora is already waiting for you in the drawing-room.' 

"The cultivation of the art said to be patronized by 
princesses was pursued in the drawing-room from con- 
siderations of the right kind of light. The governess 
preceded the master up the stairs and into the room 
where Miss de Barral was found arrayed in a holland 
pinafore (also of the right kind for the pursuit of the 
art) and smilingly expectant. The water-colour lesson 
enlivened by the jocular conversation of the kindly, 
humorous old man was always great fun; and she felt 
she would be compensated for the tiresome beginning of 
the day. 

"Her governess generally was present at the lesson; 
but on this occasion she only sat down till the master 
and pupil had gone to work in earnest, and then as 
though she had suddenly remembered some order to 
give, rose quietly and went out of the room. 

"Once outside, the servants summoned by the passing 
maid without a bell being rung, and quick, quick, let all 
this luggage be taken down into the hall, and let one of 
you call a cab. She stood outside the drawing-room 
door on the landing, looking at each piece, trunk, 
leather cases, portmanteaux, being carried past her, her 
brows knitted and her aspect so sombre and absorbed 
that it took some little time for the butler to muster 
courage enough to speak to her. But he reflected that 
he was a free-born Briton and had his rights. He 
spoke straight to the point, but in the usual respectful 


"'Beg your pardon, ma'am — but are you going away 
for good?' 

"He was startled by her tone. Its unexpected, un- 
ladylike harshness fell on his trained ear with the diS' 
agreeable effect of a false note. 'Yes. I am going 
away. And the best thing for all of you is to go away 
too, as soon as you like. You can go now, to-day, this 
moment. You had your wages paid you only last 
week. The longer you stay the greater your loss. But 
I have nothing to do with it now. You are the servants 
of Mr. de Barral — you know.' 

"The butler was astounded by the manner of this 
advice, and as his eyes wandered to the drawing-room 
door the governess extended her arm as if to bar the 
way. 'Nobody goes in there.' And that was said 
still in another tone, such a tone that all trace of the 
trained respectfulness vanished from the butler's bear- 
ing. He stared at her with a frank wondering gaze. 
'Not till I am gone,' she added, and there was such an 
expression on her face that the man was daunted by the 
mystery of it. He shrugged his shoulders slightly and 
without another word went down the stairs on his way 
to the basement, brushing in the hall past Mr. Charles, 
who hat on head and both hands rammed deep into his 
overcoat pockets paced up and down as though on 
sentry duty there. 

"The ladies' maid was the only servant upstairs, 
hovering in the passage on the first floor, curious and as 
if fascinated by the woman who stood there guarding the 
door. Being beckoned closer imperiously and asked by 
the governess to bring out of the now empty rooms the 
hat and veil, the only objects besides the furniture still 
to be found there, she did so in silence but inwardly 
fluttered. And while waiting uneasily with the veil, 
before that woman who, without moving a step away 


from the drawing-room door was pinning with careless 
haste her hat on her head, she heard within a sudden 
burst of laughter from Miss de Barral enjoying the fun 
of the water-colour lesson given her for the last time by 
the cheery old man. 

"Mr. and Mrs. Fyne ambushed at their window — 
a most incredible occupation for people of their kind — 
saw with renewed anxiety a cab come to the door and 
watched some luggage being carried out and put on its 
roof. The butler appeared for a moment, then went 
in again. What did it mean? Was Flora going to be 
taken to her father; or were these people, that woman 
and her horrible nephew, about to carry her off some- 
where? Fyne couldn't tell. He doubted the last, 
Flora having now, he judged, no value, either positive 
or speculative. Though no great reader of character, 
he did not credit the governess with humane intentions. 
He confessed to me naively that he was excited as if 
watching some action on the stage. Then the thought 
struck him that the girl might have had some money 
settled on her, be possessed of some means, of some 
little fortune of her own and therefore 

"He imparted this theory to his wife who shared fully 
his consternation. 'I can't believe the child will go 
away without running in to say good-bye to us,' she 
murmured. 'We must find out! I shall ask her.' 
But at that very moment the cab rolled away, empty 
inside, and the door of the house which had been stand- 
ing slightly ajar till then was pushed to. 

"They remained silent staring at it till Mrs. Fyne 
whispered doubtfully, 'I really think I must go over.' 
Fyne didn't answer for a while (his is a reflective mind, 
you know), and then as if Mrs. Fyne's whispers had an 
occult power over that door it opened wide again and 
the white-bearded man issued, astonishingly active in 


his movements, using his stick almost like a leaping- 
pole to get down the steps; and hobbled away briskly 
along the pavement. Naturally the Fynes were too 
far off to make out the expression of his face. But it 
would not have helped them very much to a guess at the 
conditions inside the house. The expression was 
humorously puzzled — nothing more. 

"For, at the end of his lesson, seizing his trusty stick 
and coming out with his habitual vivacity, he very 
nearly cannoned just outside the drawing-room door 
into the back of Miss de Barral's governess. He 
stopped himself in time and she turned round swiftly. 
It was embarrassing; he apologized; but her face was 
not startled; it was not aware of him; it wore a singular 
expression of resolution. A very singular expression 
which, as it were, detained him for a moment. In 
order to cover his embarrassment, he made some inane 
remark on the weather, upon which, instead of return- 
ing another inane remark according to the tacit rules 
of the game, she only gave him a smile of unfathomable 
meaning. Nothing could have been more singular. 
The good-looking young gentleman of questionable 
appearance took not the slightest notice of him in the 
hall. No servant was to be seen. He let himself out, 
pulling the door to behind him with a crash as, in a man- 
ner, he was forced to do to get it shut at all. 

"When the echo of it had died away the woman on the 
landing leaned over the banister and called out bitterly 
to the man below, 'Don't you want to come up and say 
good-bye?' He had an impatient movement of the 
shoulders and went on pacing to and fro as though he 
had not heard. But suddenly he checked himself, 
stood still for a moment, then with a gloomy face and 
without taking his hands out of his pockets ran smartly 
up the stairs. Already facing the door, she turned her 


head for a whispered taunt: 'Come! Confess you 
were dying to see her stupid little face once more' — 
to which he disdained to answer. 

"Flora de Barral, still seated before the table at which 
she had been working on her sketch, raised her head at 
the noise of the opening door. The invading manner 
of their entrance gave her the sense of something she 
had never seen before. She knew them well. She 
knew the woman better than she knew her father. 
There had been between them an intimacy of relation 
as great as it can possibly be without the final closeness 
of affection. The delightful Charley walked in, with 
his eyes fixed on the back of her governess, whose raised 
veil hid her forehead like a brown band above the black 
line of the eyebrows. The girl was astounded and 
alarmed by the altogether unknown expression in the 
woman's face. The stress of passion often discloses an 
aspect of the personality completely ignored till then by 
its closest intimates. There was something like an 
emanation of evil from her eyes and from the face of the 
other, who, exactly behind her and overtopping her 
by half a head, kept his eyelids lowered in a sinister 
fashion — which in the poor girl reached, stirred, set 
free that faculty of unreasoning explosive terror lying 
locked up at the bottom of all human hearts and of the 
hearts of animals as well. With suddenly enlarged 
pupils and a movement as instinctive almost as the 
bounding of a startled fawn, she jumped up and found 
herself in the middle of the big room, exclaiming at 
those amazing and familiar strangers. 

'"What do you want?' 

"You will note that she cried: What do you want? 
Not: What has happened? She told Mrs. Fyne that 
she had received suddenly the feeling of being personally 
attacked. And that must have been very terrifying. 


The woman before her had been the wisdom, the 
authority, the protection of life, security embodied and 
visible and undisputed. 

"You may imagine then the force of the shock in the 
intuitive perception not merely of danger, for she did 
not know what was alarming her, but in the sense of the 
security being gone. And not only security. I don't 
know how to explain it clearly. Look! Even a small 
child lives, plays and suffers in terms of its conception of 
its own existence. Imagine, if you can, a fact coming 
in suddenly with a force capable of shattering that very 
conception itself. It was only because of the girl being 
still so much of a child that she escaped mental destruc- 
tion; that, in other words, she got over it. Could one 
conceive of her more mature, while still as ignorant as 
she was, one mnst conclude that she would have become 
an idiot on the spot — long before the end of that ex- 
perience. Luckily, people, whether mature or not 
mature (and who really is ever mature?), are for the 
most part quite incapable of understanding what is 
happening to them: a merciful provision of nature to 
preserve an average amount of sanity for working pur- 
poses in this world. . . ." 

"But we, my dear Mario w, have the inestimable 
advantage of understanding what is happening to 
others," I struck in. "Or at least some of us seem to. 
Is that too a provision of nature? And what is it for? 
Is it that we may amuse ourselves gossiping about each 
other's affairs? You, for instance, seem — — " 

"I don't know what I seem," Marlow silenced me, 
" and surely life must be amused somehow. It would be 
still a very respectable provision if it were only for that 
end. But from that same provision of understanding, 
there springs in us compassion, charity, indignation, the 
sense of solidarity; and in minds of any largeness an 


inclination to that indulgence which is next to affection. 
I don't mean to say that I am inclined to an indulgent 
view of the precious couple which broke upon an un- 
suspecting girl. They came marching in (it's the very 
expression she used later on to Mrs. Fyne), but at her 
cry they stopped. It must have been startling enough 
to them. It was like having the mask torn off when 
you don't expect it. The man stopped for good; he 
didn't offer to move a step farther. But, though the 
governess had come in there for the very purpose of 
taking the mask off for the first time in her life, she 
seemed to look upon the frightened cry as a fresh 
provocation. 'What are you screaming for, you 
little fool?' she said advancing alone close to the girl 
who was affected exactly as if she had seen Medusa's 
head with serpentine locks set mysteriously on the 
shoulders of that familiar person, in that brown dress, 
under that hat she knew so well. It made her lose all 
her hold on reality. She told Mrs. Fyne: 'I didn't 
know where I was. I didn't even know that I was 
frightened. If she had told me it was a joke I would 
have laughed. If she had told me to put on my hat and 
go out with her I would have put on my hat and gone 
out with her and never said a single word; I should have 
been convinced I had been mad for a minute or so, and 
I would have worried myself to death rather than 
breathe a hint of it to her or any one. But the wretch 
put her face close to mine and I could not move. 
Directly I had looked into her eyes I felt grown on to 
the carpet.' 

"It was years afterwards that she used to talk like this 
to Mrs. Fyne — and to Mrs. Fyne alone. Nobody else 
ever heard the story from her lips. But it was never 
forgotten. It was always felt; it remained like a mark 
on her soul, a sort of mystic wound, to be contemplated, 


to be meditated over. And she said further to Mrs. 
Fyne, in the course of many confidences provoked by 
that contemplation, that, as long as that woman called 
her names, it was almost soothing, it was in a manner 
reassuring. Her imagination had, like her body, gone 
off in a wild bound to meet the unknown; and then to 
hear after all something which more in its tone than in 
its substance was mere venomous abuse, had steadied 
the inward flutter of all her being. 

'"She called me a little fool more times than I can 
remember. I! A fool! Why, Mrs. Fyne! I do 
assure you I had never yet thought at all; never of 
anything in the world, till then. I just went on living. 
And one can't be a fool without one has at least tried 
to think. But what had I ever to think about?' 

"And no doubt," commented Marlow, "her life had 
been a mere life of sensations — the response to which 
can neither be foolish nor wise. It can only be tempera- 
mental; and I believe that she was of a generally happy 
disposition, a child of the average kind. Even when 
she was asked violently whether she imagined that there 
was anything in her, apart from her money, to induce 
any intelligent person to take any sort of interest in her 
existence, she only caught her breath in one dry sob and 
said nothing, made no other sound, made no movement. 
When she was viciously assured that she was in heart, 
mind, manner and appearance an utterly common and 
insipid creature, she listened without indignation, with- 
out anger. She stood, a frail and passive vessel into 
which the other went on pouring all the accumulated 
dislike for all her pupils, her scorn of all her employers 
(the ducal one included)', the accumulated resentment, 
the infinite hatred of all these unrelieved years of — I 
won't say hypocrisy. The practice of hypocrisy is a 
relief in itself, a secret triumph of the vilest sort, no 


doubt, but still a way of getting even with the comrnoa 
morality from which some of us appear to suffer so 
much. No! I will say the years, the passionate, 
bitter years, of restraint, the iron, admirably mannered 
restraint at every moment, in a never-failing correctness 
of speech, glances, movements, smiles, gestures, estab- 
lishing for her a high reputation, an impressive record 
of success in her sphere. It had been like living half 
strangled for years. 

"And all this torture for nothing, in the end! What 
looked at last like a possible prize (oh, without illu- 
sions ! but still a prize) broken in her hands, fallen in the 
dust, the bitter dust, of disappointment, she revelled 
in the miserable revenge — pretty safe too — only re- 
gretting the unworthiness of the girlish figure which 
stood for so much she had longed to be able to spit 
venom at, if only once, in perfect liberty. The presence 
of the young man at her back increased both her 
satisfaction and her rage. But the very violence of 
the attack seemed to defeat its end by rendering the rep- 
resentative victim as it were insensible. The cause of 
this outrage naturally escaping the girl's imagination, 
her attitude was in effect that of dense, hopeless stu- 
pidity. And it is a fact that the worst shocks of life are 
often received without outcries, without gestures, with- 
out a flow of tears and the convulsions of sobbing. The 
insatiable governess missed these signs exceedingly. 
This pitiful stolidity was only a fresh provocation. 
Yet the poor girl was deadly pale. 

"'I was cold,' she used to explain to Mrs. Fyne. 'I 
had had time to get terrified. She had pushed her face 
so near mine and her teeth looked as though she wanted 
to bite me. Her eyes seemed to have become quite dry, 
hard and small in a lot of horrible wrinkles. I was too 
afraid of her to shudder, too afraid of her to put my 


fingers to my ears. I didn't know what I expected her 
to call me next, but when she told me I was no better 
than a beggar — that there would be no more masters, no 
more servants, no more horses for me — I said to myself: 
Is that all? I should have laughed if I hadn't been too 
afraid of her to make the least little sound.' 

"It seemed that poor Flora had to know all the pos- 
sible phases of that sort of anguish, beginning with 
instinctive panic, through the bewildered stage, the 
frozen stage and the stage of blanched apprehension, 
down to the instinctive prudence of extreme terror — 
the stillness of the mouse. But when she heard herself 
called the child of a cheat and a swindler, the very 
monstrous unexpectedness of this caused in her a re- 
vulsion towards letting herself go. She screamed 
out suddenly, 'You mustn't speak like this of papa!' 

"The effort of it uprooted her from that spot where 
her little feet seemed dug deep into the thick luxurious 
carpet, and she retreated backwards to a distant part of 
the room, hearing herself repeat, 'You mustn't, you 
mustn't,' as if it were somebody else screaming. She 
came to a chair and dropped into it. Thereupon the 
somebody else ceased screaming and she lolled, ex- 
hausted, sightless, in a silent room, indifferent to every- 
thing and without a single thought in her head. 

"The next few seconds seemed to last for ever so long; 
a black abyss of time separating what was past and 
gone from the reappearance of the governess and the 
reawakening of fear. And that woman was forcing 
the words through her set teeth : ' You say I mustn't, 
I mustn't. All the world will be speaking of him like 
this to-morrow. They will say it, and they'll print it. 
You shall hear it and you shall read it — and then you 
will know whose daughter you are. ' 

"Her face lighted up with an atrocious satisfaction. 


'He's nothing but a thief,' she cried, 'this father of. 
yours. As to you I have never been deceived in you 
for a moment. I have been growing more and more 
sick of you for years. You are a vulgar, silly nonentity, 
and you shall go back to where you belong, whatever 
low place you have sprung from, and beg your bread — 
that is if anybody's charity will have anything to do 
with you, which I doubt ' 

"She would have gone on regardless of the enormous 
eyes, of the open mouth of the girl who sat up suddenly 
with the wild staring expression of being choked by 
invisible fingers on her throat, and yet horribly pale. 
The effect on her constitution was so profound, Mrs. 
Fyne told me, that she who as a child had a rather 
pretty delicate colouring, showed a white bloodless face 
for a couple of years afterwards, and remained always 
liable at the slightest emotion to an extraordinary 
ghost-like whiteness. The end came in the abomi- 
nation of desolation of the poor child's miserable cry 
for help: 'Charley! Charley!' coming from her 
throat in hidden gasping efforts. Her enlarged eyes 
had discovered him where he stood motionless and 

"He started from his immobility, a hand withdrawn 
brusquely from the pocket of his overcoat, strode up to 
the woman, seized her by the arm from behind, saying 
in a rough commanding tone: 'Come away, Eliza.' 
In an instant the child saw them close together and re- 
mote, near the door, gone through the door, which she 
neither heard nor saw being opened or shut. But it 
was shut. Oh yes, it was shut. Her slow unseeing 
glance wandered all over the room. For some time 
longer she remained leaning forward, collecting her 
strength, doubting if she would be able to stand. She 
stood up at last. Everything about her spun round 


in an oppressive silence. She remembered perfectly— 
as she told Mrs. Fyne — that clinging to the arm of the 
chair she called out twice 'Papa! Papa!' At the 
thought that he was far away in London everything 
about her became quite still. Then, frightened sud- 
denly by the solitude of that empty room, she rushed 
out of it blindly. 

"With that fatal diffidence in well doing inherent in 
the present condition of humanity, the Fynes continued 
to watch at their window. 'It's always so difficult to 
know what to do for the best,' Fyne assured me. It 
is. Good intentions stand in their own way so much. 
Whereas if you want to do harm to any one you needn't 
hesitate. You have only to go on. No one will re- 
proach you with your mistakes or call you a confounded, 
clumsy meddler. The Fynes watched the door, the 
closed street door inimical somehow to their benevolent 
thoughts, the face of the house cruelly impenetrable. 
The unchanged daily aspect of inanimate things is 
so impressive that Fyne went back into the room for a 
moment, picked up the paper again, and' ran his eyes 
over the item of news. No doubt of it. It looked very 
bad. He came back to the window and Mrs. Fyne. 
Tired out as she was she sat there resolute and ready for 
responsibility. But she had no suggestion to offer. 
People do fear a rebuff wonderfully, and all her audacity 
was in her thoughts. She shrank from the incompar- 
ably insolent manner of the governess. Fyne stood by 
her side, as in those old-fashioned photographs of 
married couples where you see a husband with his hand 
on the back of his wife's chair. And they were about 
as efficient as an old photograph, and as still, till Mrs. 
Fyne started slightly. The * street door had swung 
open, and, bursting out, appeared the odious young 


man* his hat (Mrs, Fyne observed) tilted forward over 
his eyes. After him the governess slipped through, 
turning round at once to shut the door behind her with 
care. Meantime the man went down the white steps 
and strode along the pavement his hands rammed deep 
into the pockets of his fawn overcoat. The woman, 
that woman of composed movements, of deliberate 
superior manner, took a little run to catch up with him, 
and directly she had caught up with him tried to in- 
troduce her hand under his arm. Mrs. Fyne saw the 
brusque half turn of the fellow's body as one avoids an 
importunate contact, defeating her attempt rudely. 
She did not try again but kept pace with his stride, and 
Mrs. Fyne watched them, walking independently, turn 
the corner of the street side by side, disappear for ever. 
"The Fynes looked at each other eloquently, doubt- 
fully. What do you think of this? Then with common 
accord turned their eyes back to the street door, closed, 
massive, dark; the great, clear brass knocker shining in 
a quiet slant of sunshine cut by a diagonal line of heavy 
shade filling the farther end of the street. Could the 
girl be already gone? Sent away to her father? Had 
she any relations? Nobody but de Barral himself ever 
came to see her, Mrs. Fyne remembered; and she had 
the instantaneous, profound, maternal perception of 
the child's loneliness — and a girl too! It was irresist- 
ible. And, besides, the departure of the governess was 
not without its encouraging influence. 'I am going 
over at once to find out,' she declared resolutely but 
still staring across the street. Her intention was 
arrested by the sight of that awful, sombrely glistening 
door, swinging back suddenly on the yawning dark- 
ness of the hall, out of which literally flew, right out 
on the pavement, almost without touching the white 
steps, a little figure swathed in a holland pinafore up 


to the chin, its hair streaming back from its head, dart- 
ing past a lamp-post, past the red pillar-box. . . . 
'Here,' cried Mrs. Fyne; 'she's coming here! Run 
John! Run!' 

"Fyne bounded out of the room. This is his own 
word. Bounded! He assured me with intensified 
solemnity that he bounded; and the sight of the short 
and muscular Fyne bounding gravely about the cir- 
cumscribed passages and staircases of a small, private 
hotel, would have been worth any amount of money to 
a person greedy of memorable impressions. But as I 
looked at him, the desire of laughter at my very lips, I 
asked myself: how many men could be found ready to 
compromise their cherished gravity for the sake of the 
unimportant child of a ruined financier with an ugly, 
black cloud already wreathing his head? I didn't laugh 
at little Fyne. I encouraged him: 'You did! — very 
good. . . . Well?' 

"His main thought was to save the child from some 
unpleasant interference. There was a porter down- 
stairs, page boys; some people going away with their 
trunks in the passage; a railway omnibus at the door, 
white-breasted waiters dodging about the entrance. 

He was in time. He was at the door before she 
reached it in her blind course. She did not recognize 
him; perhaps she did not see him. He caught her by 
the arm as she ran past and, very sensibly, without try- 
ing to check her, simply darted in with her and up the 
stairs, causing no end of consternation amongst the 
people in his way. They scattered. What might have 
been their thoughts at the spectacle of a middle-aged 
man abducting headlong into the upper regions of a 
respectable hotel a terrified young girl obviously under 
age, I don't know. And Fyne (he told me so) did not 
care for what people might think, AH he wanted wa$ 


to reach his wife before the girl collapsed. For a time 
she ran with him, but at the last flight of stairs he had to 
seize and half drag, half carry her to his wife. Mrs. 
Fyne waited at the door with her quite unmoved physi- 
ognomy and her readiness to confront any sort of respon- 
sibility, which already characterized her, long before 
she became a ruthless theorist. Relieved, his mission 
accomplished, Fyne closed hastily the door of the 

"But before long both Fynes became frightened. After 
a period of immobility in the arms of Mrs. Fyne, the 
girl, who had not said a word, tore herself out from that 
slightly rigid embrace. She struggled dumbly be- 
tween them, they did not know why, soundless and 
ghastly, till she sank exhausted on a couch. Luckily 
the children were out with the two nurses. The hotel 
housemaid helped Mrs. Fyne to put Flora de Barral 
to bed. She was as if gone speechless and insane. She 
lay on her back, her face white like a piece of paper, her 
dark eyes staring at the ceiling, her awful immobility 
broken by sudden shivering fits with a loud chattering 
of teeth in the shadowy silence of the room, the blinds 
pulled down, Mrs. Fyne sitting by patiently, her arms 
folded, yet inwardly moved by the riddle of that dis- 
tress of which she could not guess the word, and saying 
to herself: 'That child is too emotional' — much too 
emotional to be ever really sound ! ' As if any one not 
made of stone could be perfectly sound in this world. 
And then how sound? In what sense — to resist what? 
Force or corruption? And even in the best armour of 
steel there are joints a treacherous stroke can always 
find if chance gives the opportunity. 

"General considerations never had the power to 
trouble Mrs. Fyne much. The girl not being in a state 
to be questioned, she waited by the bedside. Fyne had 


crossed over to the house, his scruples overcome by his 
anxiety to discover what really had happened. He did 
not have to lift the knocker; the door stood open on the 
inside gloom of the hall; he walked into it and saw no 
one about, the servants having assembled for a fatuous 
consultation in the basement. Fyne's uplifted bass 
voice startled them down there, the butler coming up, 
staring and in his shirt sleeves, very suspicious at first, 
and then, on Fyne's explanation that he was the hus- 
band of a lady who had called several times at the 
house — Miss de Barral's mother's friend — becoming 
humanely concerned and communicative, in a man to 
man tone, but preserving his trained high-class servant's 
voice: 'Oh bless you, sir, no! She does not mean to 
come back. She told me so herself — he assured Fyne 
with a faint shade of contempt creeping into his tone. 

"As regards their young lady nobody downstairs had 
any idea that she had run out of the house. He dared 
say they all would have been willing to do their very 
best for her, for the time being; but since she was now 
with her mother's friends . . . 

"He fidgeted. He murmured that all this was very 
unexpected. He wanted to know what he had better 
do with letters or telegrams which might arrive in the 
course of the day. 

" 'Letters addressed to Miss de Barral, you had better 
bring over to my hotel over there,' said Fyne beginning 
to feel extremely worried about the future. The man 
said, 'Yes, sir,' adding, 'and if a letter comes 
addressed to Mrs. . .' 

"Fyne stopped him by a gesture. 'I don't know. . . . 
Anything you like.' 

'"Very well, sir.' 

"The butler did not shut the street door after Fyne, 
but remained on the doorstep for a while, looking up 



and down the street in the spirit of independent ex- 
pectation like a man who is again his own master. Mrs. 
Fyne hearing her husband return came out of the room 
where the girl was lying in bed. 'No change,' she 
whispered; and Fyne could only make a hopeless sign 
of ignorance as to what all this meant and how it would 

"He feared future complications — naturally: a man of 
limited means, in a public position, his time not his own. 
Yes. He owned to me in the parlour of my farmhouse 
that he had been very much concerned then at the 
possible consequences. But as he was making this art- 
less confession I said to myself that, whatever conse- 
quences and complications he might have imagined, the 
complication from which he was suffering now could 
never, never have presented itself to his mind. Slow 
but sure (for I conceive that the Book of Destiny has 
been written up from the beginning to the last page) 
it had been coming for something like six years — and 
now it had come. The complication was there! I 
looked at his unshaken solemnity with the amused pity 
we give the victim of a funny if somewhat ill-natured 
practical joke. 

'"Oh hang it,' he exclaimed — in no logical connection 
with what he had been relating to me. Nevertheless 
the exclamation was intelligible enough. 

"However at first there were, he admitted, no un- 
toward complications, no embarrassing consequences. 
To a telegram in guarded terms dispatched to de Barral 
no answer was received for more than twenty-four 
hours. This certainly caused the Fynes some anxiety. 
When the answer arrived late on the evening of next day 
it was in the shape of an elderly man. An unexpected 
sort of man. Fyne explained to me with precision that 
he evidently belonged to what is most respectable in 


the lower middle classes. He was calm and slow in his 
speech. He was wearing a frock-coat, had grey whis- 
kers meeting under his chin, and declared on entering 
that Mr. de Barral was his cousin. He hastened to add 
that he had not seen his cousin for many years, while he 
looked on Fyne (who received him alone) with so much 
distrust that Fyne felt hurt (the person actually re- 
fusing at first the chair offered to him) and retorted 
tartly that he, for his part, had never seen Mr. de Barral, 
in his life, and that, since the visitor did not want to sit 
down, he, Fyne, begged him to state his business as 
shortly as possible. The man in black sat down then 
with a faint superior smile. 

"He had come for the girl. His cousin had asked him 
in a note delivered by a messenger to go to Brighton at 
once and take 'his girl' over from a gentleman named 
Fyne and give her house-room for a time in his family. 
And there he was. His business had not allowed him 
to come sooner. His business was the manufacture on 
a large scale of card-board boxes. He had two grown-up 
girls of his own. He had consulted his wife and so that 
was all right. The girl would get a welcome in his 
home. His home most likely was not what she had 
been used to, but, etc., etc. 

"All the time Fyne felt subtly in that man's manner a 
derisive disapproval of everything that was not lower 
middle class, a profound respect for money, a mean sort 
of contempt for speculators that fail, and a conceited 
satisfaction with his own respectable vulgarity. 

"With Mrs. Fyne the manner of the obscure cousin of 
de Barral was but little less offensive. He looked at 
her rather slyly, but her cold, decided demeanour im- 
pressed him. Mrs. Fyne on her side was simply ap- 
palled by the personage, but did not show it outwardly. 
Not even when the man remarked with false simplicity 


that Florrie — her name was Florrie wasn't it? — would 
probably miss at first all her grand friends. And when 
he was informed that the girl was in bed, not feeling 
well at all, he showed an unsympathetic alarm. She 
wasn't an invalid, was she? No. What was the 
matter with her then? 

"An extreme distaste for that respectable member of 
society was depicted in Fyne's face even as he was 
telling me of him after all these years. He was a speci- 
men of precisely the class of which people like the Fynes 
have the least experience; and I imagine he jarred on 
them painfully. He possessed all the civic virtues in 
their very meanest form, and the finishing touch was 
given by a low sort of consciousness he manifested of 
possessing them. His industry was exemplary. He 
wished to catch the earliest possible train next morning. 
It seems that for seven and twenty years he had 
never missed being seated on his office-stool at the 
factory punctually at ten o'clock every day. He 
listened to Mrs. Fyne's objections with undisguised 
impatience. Why couldn't Florrie get up and have her 
breakfast at eight like other people? In his house the 
breakfast was at eight sharp. Mrs. Fyne's polite 
stoicism overcame him at last. He had come down at a 
very great personal inconvenience, he assured her with 
displeasure, but he gave up the early train. 

"The good Fynes didn't dare to look at each other be- 
fore this unforeseen but perfectly authorized guardian, 
the same thought springing up in their minds: Poor 
girl! Poor girl! If the women of the family were like 
this too! . . . And of course they would be. Poor 
girl ! But what could they have done even if they had 
been prepared to raise objections? The person in the 
frock-coat had the father's note; he had shown it to 
Fyne. Just a request to take care of the girl — as her 


nearest relative — without any explanation or a single 
allusion to the financial catastrophe, its tone strangely- 
detached and in its very silence on the point giving 
occasion to think that the writer was not uneasy as 
to the child's future. Probably it was that very idea 
which had set the cousin so readily in motion. Men 
had come before out of commercial crashes with estates 
in the country and a comfortable income, if not for 
themselves then for their wives. And if a wife could be 
made comfortable by a little dexterous management 
then why not a daughter? Yes. This possibility might 
have been discussed in the person's household and 
judged worth acting upon. 

"The man actually hinted broadly that such was his 
belief, and in face of Fyne's guarded replies gave him to 
understand that he was not the dupe of such reticences. 
Obviously he looked upon the Fynes as being disap- 
pointed because the girl was taken away from them. 
They, by a diplomatic sacrifice in the interests of poor 
Flora, had asked the man to dinner. He accepted un- 
graciously, remarking that he was not used to late hours. 
He had generally a bit of supper about half -past eight or 
nine. However . . . 

"He gazed contemptuously round the prettily deco- 
rated dining-room. He wrinkled his nose in a puzzled 
way at the dishes offered to him by the waiter but 
refused none, devouring the food with a great appetite 
and drinking ('swilling' Fyne called it) gallons of 
ginger beer, which was procured for him (in stone 
bottles) at his request. The difficulty of keeping up a 
conversation with that being exhausted Mrs. Fyne her- 
self, who had come to the table armed with adamantine 
resolution. The only memorable thing he said was 
when, in a pause of gorging himself ' with these French 
dishes,' he deliberately let his eyes roam over the little 


tables occupied by parties of diners, and remarked that 
his wife did for a moment think of coming down with 
him, but that he was glad she didn't do so. 'She 
wouldn't have been at all happy seeing all this alcohol 
about. Not at all happy,' he declared weightily. 

"'You must have had a charming evening,' I said to 
Fyne, 'if I may judge from the way you have kept the 
memory green.' 

"'Delightful,' he growled with, positively, a flash of 
anger at the recollection, but lapsed back into his 
solemnity at once. After we had been silent for a 
while I asked whether the man took away the girl next 

"Fyne said that he did; in the afternoon, in a fly, with 
a few clothes the maid had got together and brought 
across from the big house. Fyne only saw Flora again 
ten minutes before they left for the railway station, in 
the Fynes' sitting-room at the hotel. It was a most 
painful ten minutes for the Fynes. The respectable 
citizen addressed Miss de Barral as 'Florrie' and 'my 
dear,' remarking to her that she was not very big, 
'there's not much of you, my dear,' in a familiarly 
disparaging tone. Then turning to Mrs. Fyne, and 
quite loud, 'She's very white in the face. Why's 
that?' To this Mrs. Fyne made no reply. She had 
put the girl's hair up that morning with her own hands. 
It changed her very much, observed Fyne. He, 
naturally, played a subordinate, merely approving 
part. All he could do for Miss de Barral personally 
was to go downstairs and put her into the fly himself, 
while Miss de Barral's nearest relation, having been 
shouldered out of the way, stood by, with an umbrella 
and a little black bag, watching this proceeding with 
grim amusement, as it seemed. It was difficult to 
guess what the girl thought or what she felt. She no 


longer looked a child. She whispered to Fyne a faint 
'Thank you' from the fly, and he said to her in very 
distinct tones and while still holding her hand: 'Pray 
don't forget to write fully to my wife in a day or two, 
Miss de Barral.' Then Fyne stepped back and the 
cousin climbed into the fly muttering quite audibly: 
'I don't think you'll be troubled much with her in the 
future;' without however looking at Fyne on whom he 
did not even bestow a nod. The fly drove away. 



"'Amiable personality,' I observed, seeing Fyne on 
the point of falling into a brown study. But I could 
not help adding with meaning: 'He hadn't the gift of 
prophecy though.' 

"Fyne got up suddenly with a muttered 'No, evi- 
dently not.' He was gloomy, hesitating. I supposed 
that he would not wish to play chess that afternoon. 
This would dispense me from leaving my rooms on a 
day much too fine to be wasted in walking exercise. 
And I was disappointed when picking up his cap he 
intimated to me his hope of seeing me at the cottage 
about four o'clock — as usual. 

"'It wouldn't be as usual.' I put a particular stress 
on that remark. He admitted, after a short reflection, 
that it would not be. No. Not as usual. In fact it 
was his wife who hoped, rather, for my presence. She 
had formed a very favourable opinion of my practical 

"This was the first I ever heard of it. I had never sus- 
pected that Mrs. Fyne had taken the trouble to dis- 
tinguish in me the signs of sagacity or folly. The few 
words we had exchanged last night in the excitement — 
or the bother — of, the girl's disappearance, were the 
first moderately significant words which had ever 
passed between us. I had felt myself always to be in 
Mrs. Fyne's view her husband's chess-player and 
nothing else — a convenience — almost an implement. 


"'I am highly flattered,' I said. 'I have always 
heard that there are no limits to feminine intuition; and 
now I am half inclined to believe it is so. But still I 
fail to see in what way my sagacity, practical or other- 
wise, can be of any service to Mrs. Fyne. One man's 
sagacity is very much like any other man's sagacity. 
And with you at hand ' 

"Fyne, manifestly not attending to what I was saying, 
directed straight at me his worried solemn eyes and 
struck in: 'Yes, yes. Very likely. But you will 
come — won't you?' 

"I had made up my mind that no Fyne of either sex 
would make me walk three miles (there and back to 
their cottage) on this fine day. If the Fynes had been 
an average sociable couple one knows only because 
leisure must be got through somehow, I would have 
made short work of that special invitation. But they 
were not that. Their undeniable humanity had to be 
acknowledged. At the same time I wanted to have my 
own way. So I proposed that I should be allowed the 
pleasure of offering them a cup of tea at my rooms. 

"A short reflective pause — and Fyne accepted eagerly 
in his own and his wife's name. A moment after I 
heard the click of the gate-latch and then in an ecstasy 
of barking from his demonstrative dog his serious head 
went past my window on the other side of the hedge, its 
troubled gaze fixed forward, and the mind inside ob- 
viously employed in earnest speculation of an intricate 
nature. One at least of his wife's girl-friends had be- 
come more than a mere shadow for him. I surmised 
however that it was not of the girl-friend but of his 
wife that Fyne was thinking. He was an excellent 

"I prepared myself for the afternoon's hospitalities, 
calling in the farmer's wife and reviewing with her the 


resources of the house and the village. She was a help* 
ful woman. But the resources of my sagacity I did not 
review. Except in the gross material sense of the after- 
noon tea I made no preparations for Mrs. Fyne. 

"It was impossible for me to make any such prepara- 
tions. I could not tell what sort of sustenance she 
would look for from my sagacity. And as to taking 
stock of the wares of my mind, no one, I imagine, is 
anxious to do that sort of thing if it can be avoided. A 
vaguely grandiose state of mental self-confidence is 
much too agreeable to be disturbed recklessly by such a 
delicate investigation. Perhaps if I had had a helpful 
woman at my elbow, a dear, flattering, acute, devoted 
woman. . . . There are in life moments when one 
positively regrets not being married. No! I don't 
exaggerate. I have said — moments, not years or even 
days. Moments. The farmer's wife obviously could not 
be asked to assist. She could not have been expected 
to possess the necessary insight, and I doubt whether 
she would have known how to be flattering enough. 
She was being helpful in her own way, with an extraor- 
dinary black bonnet on her head, a good mile off 
by that time, trying to discover in the village shops a 
piece of eatable cake. The pluck of women! The 
optimism of the dear creatures! 

"And she managed to find something which looked 
eatable. That's all I know as I had no opportunity to 
observe the more intimate effects of that comestible. I 
myself never eat cake, and Mrs. Fyne, when she arrived 
punctually, brought with her no appetite for cake. She 
had no appetite for anything. But she had a thirst — 
the sign of deep, of tormenting emotion. Yes, it was 
emotion, not the brilliant sunshine — more brilliant than 
warm as is the way of our discreet self-repressed, dis- 
tinguished, insular sun, which would not turn a real 


lady scarlet — not on any account. Mrs. Fyne looked 
even cool. She wore a white skirt and coat; a white hat 
with a large brim reposed on her smoothly arranged 
hair. The coat was cut something like an army mess- 
jacket and the style suited her. I dare say there are 
many youthful subalterns, and not the worst-looking 
too, who resemble Mrs. Fyne in the type of face, in the 
sunburnt complexion, down to that something alert in 
bearing. But not many would have had that aspect 
breathing a readiness to assume any responsibility under 
Heaven. This is the sort of courage which ripens late 
in life, and of course Mrs. Fyne was of mature years 
for all her unwrinkled face. 

"She looked round the room, told me positively that 
I was very comfortable there; to which I assented, 
humbly, acknowledging my undeserved good fortune. 

"'Why undeserved?' she wanted to know. 

'"I engaged these rooms by letter without asking any 
questions. It might have been an abominable hole,' 
I explained to her. 'I always do things like that. I 
don't like to be bothered. This is no great proof of saga- 
city — is it? Sagacious people, I believe, like to exercise 
that faculty. I have heard that they can't even help 
showing it in the veriest trifles. It must be very delight- 
ful. But I know nothing- of it. I think that I have no 
sagacity — no practical sagacity.' 

" 'Fyne made an inarticulate bass murmur of protest. 
I asked after the children whom I had not seen yet since 
my return from town. They had been very well. They 
were always well. Both Fyne and Mrs. Fyne spoke of 
the rude health of their children as if it were a result of 
moral excellence; in a peculiar tone which seemed to 
imply some contempt for people whose children were 
liable to be unwell at times. One almost felt inclined to 
apologize for the inquiry. And this annoyed me; un- 


reasonably, I admit, because the assumption of superior 
merit is not a very exceptional weakness. Anxious to 
make myself disagreeable by way of retaliation, I ob- 
served in accents of interested civility that the dear 
girls must have been wondering at the sudden disap- 
pearance of their mother's young friend. Had they 
been putting any awkward questions about Miss Smith? 
Wasn't it as Miss Smith that Miss de Barral had been 
introduced to me? 

" 'Mrs. Fyne, staring fixedly but also colouring deeper 
under her tan, told me that the children had never liked 
Flora very much. She hadn't the high spirits which en- 
dear grown-ups to healthy children, Mrs. Fyne ex- 
plained unflinchingly. Flora had been staying at the 
cottage several times before. Mrs. Fyne assured me 
that she often found it very difficult to have her in the 

'"But what else could we do?' she exclaimed. 

"That little cry of distress, quite genuine in its in- 
expressiveness, altered my feeling towards Mrs. Fyne. 
It would have been so easy to have done nothing and to 
have thought no more about it. My liking for her be- 
gan while she was trying to tell me of the night she 
spent by the girl's bedside, the night before her depar- 
ture with her unprepossessing relative. That Mrs. 
Fyne found means to comfort the child I doubt very 
much. She had not the genius for the task of undoing 
that which the hate of an infuriated woman had planned 
so well. 

"You will tell me perhaps that children's impressions 
are not durable. That's true enough. But here, child 
is only a manner of speaking. The girl was within a 
few days of her sixteenth birthday; she was old enough 
to be matured by the shock. The very effort she had to 
make in conveying the impression to Mrs. Fyne, in re- 



membering the details, in finding adequate words — or 
any words at all — was in itself a terribly enlightening, an 
ageing process. She had talked a long time, uninter- 
rupted by Mrs. Fyne, childlike enough in her wonder 
and pain, pausing now and then to interject the pitiful 
query: 'It was cruel of her. Wasn't it cruel, Mrs. 

"For Charley she found excuses. He at any rate had 
not said anything while he had looked very gloomy and 
miserable. He couldn't have taken part against his 
aunt — could he? But after all he did, when she called 
upon him, take 'that cruel women away.' He had 
dragged her out by the arm. She had seen that plainly. 
She remembered it. That was it! The woman was 
mad. 'Oh! Mrs. Fyne, don't tell me she wasn't mad. 
If you had only seen her face . . .' 

"But Mrs. Fyne was unflinching in her idea that as 
much truth as could be told was due in the way of kind- 
ness to the girl, whose fate she feared would be to live 
exposed to the hardest realities of unprivileged exist- 
ences. She explained to her that there were in the 
world evil-minded, selfish people. Unscrupulous people. 
. . . These two persons had been after her father's 
money. The best thing she could do was to forget all 
about them. 

"'After papa's money? I don't understand,' poor 
Flora de Barral had murmured, and lay still as if trying 
to think it out in the silence and shadows of the room 
where only a night-light was burning. Then she had a 
long shivering fit while holding tight the hand of Mrs. 
Fyne whose patient immobility by the bedside of that 
brutally murdered childhood did infinite honour to her 
humanity. That vigil must have been the more trying 
because I could see very well that at no time did she 
think the victim particularly charming or sympathetic, 


It was a manifestation of pure compassion, of com- 
passion in itself, so to speak, not many women would 
have been capable of displaying with that unflinching 
steadiness. The shivering fit over, the girl's next 
words in an outburst of sobs were, 'Oh! Mrs. Fyne, am I 
really such a horrid thing as she has made me out to be? ' 

"'No, no!' protested Mrs. Fyne. 'It is your former 
governess who is horrid and odious. She is a vile 
woman. I cannot tell you that she was mad, but I 
think she must have been beside herself with rage and 
full of evil thoughts. You must try not to think of 
these abominations, my dear child.' 

" They were not fit for any one to think of much, Mrs. 
Fyne commented to me in a curt positive tone. All 
that had been very trying. The girl was like a creature 
struggling under a net. 

"'But how can I forget? she called my father a cheat 
and a swindler! Do tell me, Mrs. Fyne, that it isn't 
true. It can't be true. How can it be true?' 

"She sat up in bed with a sudden wild motion as if to 
jump out and flee from the sound of the words which 
had just passed her own lips. Mrs. Fyne restrained her, 
soothed her, induced her at last to lay her head on her 
pillow again, assuring her all the time that nothing this 
woman had had the cruelty to say deserved to be taken 
to heart. The girl, exhausted, cried quietly for a time. 
It may be she had noticed something evasive in Mrs. 
Fyne's assurances. After a while, without stirring, she 
whispered brokenly — 

"That awful woman told me that all the world would 
call papa these awful names. Is it possible? Is it 

"Mrs. Fyne kept silent. 

""Do say something to me, Mrs. Fyne,' the daughter 
of de Barral insisted in the same feeble whisper, 


"Again Mrs. Fyne assured me that it had been very 
trying. Terribly trying. 'Yes, thanks, I will.' She 
leaned back in the chair with folded arms while I 
poured another cup of tea for her, and Fyne went out 
to pacify the dog which, tied up under the porch, had 
become suddenly very indignant at somebody having 
the audacity to walk along the lane. Mrs. Fyne 
stirred her tea for a long time, drank a little, put the cup 
down and said with that air of accepting. all the conse- 

"'Silence would have been unfair. I don't think it 
would have been kind either. I told her that she must 
be prepared for the world passing a very severe judg- 
ment on her father . . .' 

"Wasn't it admirable?" cried Marlow, interrupting 
v his narrative. "Admirable!" And as I looked dubi- 
ously at this unexpected enthusiasm he started justify- 
ing it after his own manner. 

"I say admirable because it was so characteristic. It 
was perfect. Nothing short of genius could have found 
better. And this was nature! As they say of an ar- 
tist's work: this was a perfect Fyne. Compassion — 
judiciousness — something correctly measured. None 
of your dishevelled sentiment. And right ! You must 
confess that nothing could have been more right. I 
had a mind to shout 'Brava! Brava!' but I did not 
do that. I took a piece of cake and went out to bribe 
the Fyne dog into some sort of self-control. His sharp 
comical yapping was unbearable, like stabs through 
one's brain, and Fyne's deeply modulated re- 
monstrances abashed the vivacious animal no more 
than the deep, patient murmur of the sea abashes a 
nigger minstrel on a popular beach. Fyne was begin- 
ning to* swear at him in low, sepulchral tones when I 


appeared. The dog became at once wildly demonstra- 
tive, half strangling himself in his collar, his eyes and 
tongue hanging out in the excess of his incomprehensible 
affection for me. This was before he caughi sight of 
the cake in my hand. A series of vertical springs 
high up in the air followed, and then, when he got 
the cake, he instantly lost his interest in everything 

" Fyne was slightly vexed with me. As kind a master 
as any dog could wish to have, he yet did not approve of 
cake being given to dogs. The Fyne dog was sup- 
posed to lead a Spartan existence on a diet of repulsive 
biscuits with an occasional dry, hygienic bone thrown 
in. Fyne looked down gloomily at the appeased ani- 
mal, I too looked at that fool-dog; and (you know how 
one's memory gets suddenly stimulated) I was reminded 
visually, with an almost painful distinctness, of the 
ghostly white face of the girl I saw last accompanied by 
that dog — deserted by that dog. I almost heard her 
distressed voice as if on the verge of resentful tears call- 
ing to the dog, the unsympathetic dog. Perhaps she 
had not the power of evoking sympathy, that personal 
gift of direct appeal to the feelings. I said to Fyne, 
mistrusting the supine attitude of the dog: 

"'Why don't you let him come inside?' 
'Oh dear no! He couldn't think of it! I might in- 
deed have saved my breath, I knew it was one of the 
Fyne's rules of life, part of their solemnity and re- 
sponsibility, one of those things that were part of their 
unassertive but ever-present superiority, that their 
dog must not be allowed in. It was most improper to 
intrude the dog into the houses of the people they were 
calling on — if it were only a careless bachelor in farm- 
house lodgings and a personal friend of the dog. It 
-i as out of the question. But they would let him bark 


one's sanity away outside one's window. They were 
strangely consistent in their lack of imaginative sym- 
pathy. I didn't insist but simply led the way back to 
the parlour, hoping that no wayfarer would happen 
along the lane for the next hour or so to disturb the dog's 

"Mrs. Fyne seated immovable before the table 
charged with plates, cups, jugs, a cold teapot, crumbs, 
and the general litter of the entertainment turned her 
head towards us. 

"'You see, Mr. Marlow,' she said in an unexpectedly 
confidential tone: 'they are so utterly unsuited for 
each other.' 

"At the moment I did not know how to apply this 
remark. I thought at first of Fyne and the dog. Then 
I adjusted it to the matter in hand which was neither 
more nor less than an elopement. Yes, by Jove! It 
was something very much like an elopement — with 
certain unusual characteristics of its own which made it 
in a sense equivocal. With amused wonder I remem- 
bered that my sagacity was requisitioned in such a 
connection. How unexpected! But we never know 
what tests our gifts may be put to. Sagacity dictated 
caution first of all. I believe caution to be the first duty 
of sagacity. Fyne sat down as if preparing himself to 
witness a joust, I thought. 

"'Do you think so, Mrs. Fyne?' I said sagaciously. 
'Of course you are in a position . . .' I was con- 
tinuing with caution when she struck out vivaciously 
for immediate assent. 

"'Obviously! Clearly! You yourself must ad- 
mit . . .' 

"'But, Mrs. Fyne,' I remonstrated, 'you forget that 
I don't know your brother.' 

"This argument which was not only sagacious but, 


true, overwhelmingly true, unanswerably true, seemed 
to surprise her. 

"I wondered why. I did not know enough of her 
brr+her for the remotest guess at what he might be 
like. I had never set eyes on the man. I didn't know 
him so completely that by contrast I seemed to have 
known Miss de Barral — whom I had seen twice (al- 
together about sixty minutes) and with whom I had 
exchanged about sixty words — from the cradle so to 
speak. And perhaps, I thought, looking down at Mrs. 
Fyne (I had remained standing) perhaps she thinks 
that this.ought to be enough for a sagacious assent. 

"She kept silent; and I, looking at her with polite ex- 
pectation, went on addressing her mentally in a mood of 
familiar approval which would have astonished her had 
it been audible : 'You, my dear, at any rate are a sin- 
cere woman . . .' 

"I call a woman sincere," Marlow began again after 
giving me a cigar and lighting one himself, "I call a 
woman sincere when she volunteers a statement re- 
sembling remotely in form what she really would like to 
say, what she really thinks ought to be said if it were not 
for the necessity to spare the stupid sensitiveness of 
men. The women's rougher, simpler, more upright 
judgment, embraces the whole truth, which their tact, 
their mistrust of masculine idealism, ever prevents 
them from speaking in its entirety. And their tact is 
unerring. We could not stand women speaking the 
truth. We could not bear it. It would cause infinite 
misery and bring about most awful disturbances in this 
rather mediocre, but still idealistic fool's paradise in 
which each of us lives his own little life — the unit in the 
great sum of existence. And they know it. They are 
merciful. This generalization does not apply exactly to 
Mrs. Jyne's outburst of sincerity in a matter in which 


neither my affections nor my vanity was engaged. 
That's why, may be, she ventured so far. For a 
woman she chose to be as open as the day with me. 
There was not only the form but almost the whole 
substance of her thought in what she said. She believed 
she could risk it. She had reasoned somewhat in this 
way; there's a man, possessing a certain amount of 
sagacity . . ." 

Marlow paused with a whimsical look at me. The 
last few words he had spoken with the cigar in his teeth. 
He took it out now by an ample movement of his arm 
and blew a thin cloud. 

"You smile? It would have been more kind to spare 
my blushes. But as a matter of fact I need not blush. 
This is not vanity; it is analysis. We'll let sagacity 
stand. But we must also note what sagacity in this 
connection stands for. When you see this you shall see 
also that there was nothing in it to alarm my modesty. 
I don't think Mrs. Fyne credited me with the possession 
of wisdom tempered by common sense. And had I had 
the wisdom of the Seven Sages of Antiquity, she would 
not have been moved to confidence or admiration. The 
secret scorn of women for the capacity to consider 
judiciously and to express profoundly a meditated con- 
clusion is unbounded. They have no use for these 
lofty exercises which they look upon as a sort of purely 
masculine game — game meaning a respectable occupa- 
tion devised to kill time in this man-arranged life which 
must be got through somehow. What women's acute- 
ness really respects are the inept 'ideas' and the sheep- 
like impulses by which our actions and opinions are 
determined in matters of real importance. For if 
women are not rational they are indeed acute. Even 
Mrs. Fyne was acute. The good woman was making 
up to her husband's chess-player simply because she 


had scented in him that small portion of 'femininity,' 
that drop of superior essence of which I am myself 
aware; which, I gratefully acknowledge, has saved me 
from one or two misadventures in my life either ridicu- 
lous or lamentable, I am not very certain which. It 
matters very little. Anyhow misadventures. Observe 
that I say 'femininity,' a privilege — not 'feminism,' an 
attitude. I am not a feminist. It was Fyne who on 
certain solemn grounds had adopted that mental 
attitude; but it was enough to glance at him sitting on 
one side, to see that he was purely masculine to his 
finger tips, masculine solidly, densely, amusingly, — 

" I did glance at him. You don't get your sagacity 
recognized by a man's wife without feeling the propriety 
and even the need to glance at the man now and again. 
So I glanced at him. Very masculine. So much so 
that 'hopelessly' was not the last word of it. He was 
helpless. He was bound and delivered by it. And if 
by the obscure promptings of my composite tempera" 
ment I beheld him with malicious amusement, yet being 
in fact, by definition and especially from profound con- 
viction, a man, I could not help sympathizing with him 
largely. Seeing him thus disarmed, so completely 
captive by the very nature of things, I was moved to 
speak to him kindly. 

"'Well. And what do you think of it?' 

"'I don't know. How's one to tell? But I say that 
the thing is done now and there's an end of it,' said the 
masculine creature as bluntly as his innate solemnity 

"Mrs. Fyne moved a little in her chair. I turned to 
her and remarked gently that this was a charge, a 
criticism, which was often made. Some people always 
ask: What could he see in her? Others wonder what 


she could have seen in him? Expressions of unsuitabil- 

" She said with all the emphasis of her quietly folded 

'"I know perfectly well what Flora has seen in my 

" I bowed my head to the gust but pursued my point. 

'"And then the marriage in most cases turns out no 
worse than the average, to say the least of it.' 

"Mrs. Fyne was disappointed by the optimistic turn 
of my sagacity. She rested her eyes on my face as 
though in doubt whether I had enough femininity in my 
composition to understand the case. 

" I waited for her to speak. She seemed to be asking 
herself: Is it, after all, worth while to talk to that man? 
You understand how provoking this was. I looked in 
my mind for something appallingly stupid to say, with 
the object of distressing and teasing Mrs. Fyne. It is 
humiliating to confess a failure. One would think that 
a man of average intelligence could command stupidity 
at will. But it isn't so. I suppose it's a special gift or 
else the difficulty consists in being relevant. Discover- 
ing that I could find no really telling stupidity, I turned 
to the next best thing: a platitude. I advanced, in a 
common-sense tone, that, surely, in the matter of mar- 
riage a man had only himself to please. 

"Mrs. Fyne received this without the flutter of an 
eyelid. Fyne's masculine breast, as might have been 
expected, was pierced by that old, regulation shaft. 
He grunted most feelingly. I turned to him with false 
simplicity. 'Don't you agree with me?' 

"'The very thing I've been telling my wife,' he ex- 
claimed in his extra-manly bass. 'We have been dis- 
cussing — — ' 

"A discussion in the Fyne menage ! How portentous ! 


Perhaps the very first difference they had ever had: 
Mrs. Fyne unflinching and ready for any responsibility, 
Fyne solemn and shrinking — the children in bed up- 
stairs; and outside the dark fields, the shadowy con- 
tours of the land on the starry background of the uni- 
verse, with the crude light of the open window like a 
beacon for the truant who would never come back now; 
a truant no longer but a downright fugitive. Yet a 
fugitive carrying off spoils. It was the flight of a 
raider — or a traitor? This affair of the purloined 
brother, as I had named it to myself, had a very puzzling 
physiognomy. The girl must have bee*h desperate, I 
thought, hearing the grave voice of Fyne well enough 
but catching the sense of his words not at all, except the 
very last words which were: 

'"Of course, it's extremely distressing.' 
"I looked at him inquisitively. What was distressing 
him? The purloining of the son of the poet-tyrant by 
the daugher of the financier-convict? Or only, if I 
may say so, the wind of their flight disturbing the 
solemn placidity of the Fyne's domestic atmosphere? 
My incertitude did not last long, for he added : 
"'Mrs. Fyne urges me to go to London at once.' 
" One could guess at, almost see, his profound distaste 
for the journey, his distress at a difference of feeling with 
his wife. With his' serious view of the sublunary comedy 
Fyne suffered from not being able to agree solemnly 
with her sentiment as he was accustomed to do, in 
recognition of having had his way in one supreme in- 
stance: when he made her elope with him — the most 
momentous step imaginable in a young lady's life. He 
had been really trying to acknowledge it by taking the 
Tightness of her feeling for granted on every other oc- 
casion. It had become a sort of habit at last. And it 
is never pleasant to break a habit. The man waa 


deeply troubled. I said: 'Really! To go to Lon- 

"He looked dumbly into my eyes. It was pathetic 
and funny. 'And you of course feel it would be use- 
less,' I pursued. 

"He evidently felt that, though he said nothing. He 
only went on blinking at me with a solemn and comical 
slowness. 'Unless it be to carry there the family's 
blessing,' I went on, indulging my chaffing humour 
steadily, in a rather sneaking fashion, for I dared not 
look at Mrs. Fyne, to my right. No sound or move- 
ment came from that direction. 'You think very 
naturally that to match mere good, sound reasons, 
against the passionate conclusions of love is a waste of 
intellect bordering on the absurd.' 

"He looked surprised as if I had discovered something 
very clever. He, dear man, had thought of nothing at 
all. He simply knew that he did not want to go to 
London on that mission. Mere masculine delicacy. In 
a moment he became enthusiastic. 

"'Yes! Yes! Exactly. A man in love . . . 
You hear, my dear? Here you have an independent 
opinion ' 

"'Can anything be more hopeless,' I insisted to the 
fascinated little Fyne, 'than to pit reason against 
love? I must confess however that in this case when I 
think of that poor girl's sharp chin I wonder if . . .' 

"My levity was too much for Mrs. Fyne. Still lean- 
ing back in her chair she exclaimed: 

'"Mr. Marlow!' 

"As if mysteriously affected by her indignation the 
absurd Fyne dog began to bark in the porch. It might 
have been at a trespassing bumble-bee however. That 
animal was capable of any eccentricity. Fyne got up. 


quickly and went out to him. I think he was glad to 
leave us alone to discuss that matter of his journey to 
London. A sort of anti-sentimental journey. He, too, 
apparently, had confidence in my sagacity. It was 
touching, this confidence. It was at any rate more 
genuine than the confidence his wife pretended to have 
in her husband's chess-player, of three successive holi- 
days. Confidence be hanged ! Sagacity — indeed ! She 
had simply marched in without a shadow of misgiving 
to make me back her up. But she had delivered herself 
into my hands. . . ." 

Interrupting his narrative Marlow addressed me in 
his tone between grim jest and grim earnest: 

"Perhaps you didn't know that my character is upon 
the whole rather vindictive." 

"No, I didn't know," I said with a grin. "That's 
rather unusual for a sailor. They always seemed to me 
the least vindictive body of men in the world." 

"H'm! Siniple souls," Marlow muttered moodily. 
"Want of opportunity. The world leaves them alone 
for the most part. For myself it's towards women that 
I feel vindictive mostly, in my small way. I admit that 
it is small. But then the occasions in themselves are 
not great. Mainly I resent that pretence of winding us 
round their dear little fingers, as of right. Not that the 
result ever amounts to much generally. There are so 
very few momentous opportunities. It is the assump- 
tion that each of us is a combination of a kid and an 
imbecile which I find provoking — in a small way; in a 
very small way. You needn't stare as though I were 
breathing fire and smoke out of my nostrils. I am not 
a women-devouring monster. I am not even what is 
technically called 'a brute.' I hope there's enough of a 
kid and an imbecile in me to answer the requirements of 
some really good woman eventually — some day . . . 


Some day. Why do you gasp? You don't suppose I 
should be afraid of getting married? That supposition 
would be offensive . . ." 

"I wouldn't dream of offending you," I said. 

"Very well. But meantime please remember that I 
was not married to Mrs. Fyne. That lady's little 
finger was none of my legal property. I had not run 
off with it. It was Fyne who had done that thing. Let 
him be wound round as much as his backbone could 
stand — or even more, for all I cared. His rushing away 
from the discussion on the transparent pretence of 
quieting the dog confirmed my notion of there being a 
considerable strain on his elasticity. I confronted Mrs. 
Fyne resolved not to assist her in her eminently femi- 
nine occupation of thrusting a stick in the spokes of 
another woman's wheel. 

" She tried to preserve her calm-eyed superiority. She 
was familiar and olympian, fenced in by the tea-table, 
that excellent symbol of domestic life in its lighter hour 
and its perfect security. In a few severely unadorned 
words she gave me to understand that she had ventured 
to hope for some really helpful suggestion from me. To 
this almost chiding declaration — because my vindictive- 
ness seldom goes further than a bit of teasing — I said 
that I was really doing my best. And being a physi- 
ognomist . . . 

"'Being what?' she interrupted me. 

"'A physiognomist,' I repeated raising my voice a 
little. 'A physiognomist, Mrs. Fyne. And on the 
principles of that science a pointed little chin is a 
sufficient ground for interference. You want to inter- 
fere — do you not?' 

"Her eyes grew distinctly bigger. She had never 
been bantered before in her life The late subtle poet's 
method of making himself unpleasant was merely 


savage and abusive. Fyne had been always solemnly 
subservient. What other men she knew I cannot tell, 
but I assume they must have been gentlemanly 
creatures. The girl-friends sat at her feet. How 
could she recognize my intention? She didn't know 
what to make of my tone. 

'"Are you serious in what you say?' she asked slowly. 
And it was touching. It was as if a very young, con- 
fiding girl had spoken. I felt myself relenting. 

" 'No. I am not, Mrs. Fyne,' I said. 'I didn't know 
I was expected to be serious as well as sagacious. No. 
That science is farcical and therefore I am not serious. 
It's true that most sciences are farcical except those 
which teach us how to put things together.' 

'"The question is how to keep these two people 
apart,' she struck in. She had recovered. I admired 
the quickness of women's wit. Mental agility is a rare 
perfection. And aren't they agile! Aren't they — 
just! And tenacious! When they once get hold you 
may uproot the tree but you won't shake them off the 
branch. In fact the more you shake . . . But 
only look at the charm of contradictory perfections'. 
No wonder men give in — generally. I won't say I was 
actually charmed by Mrs. Fyne. I was not delighted 
with her. What affected me was not what she dis- 
played but something which she could not conceal. 
And that was emotion — nothing less. The form of her 
declaration was dry, almost peremptory — but not its 
tone. Her voice faltered just the least bit, she smiled 
faintly; and as we were looking straight at each other I 
observed that her eyes were glistening in a peculiar 
manner. She was distressed. And indeed that Mrs. 
Fyne should have appealed to me at all was in itself the 
evidence of her profound distress. 'By Jove she's 
Asperate too/ I thought. This discovery was followed 

TJUfi lEA-JfAKTY 153 

by a movement of instinctive shrinking from this 
unreasonable and unmasculine affair. They were all 
alike, with their supreme interest aroused only by 
fighting with each other about some man: a lover, a 
son, a brother. 

"'But do you think there's time yet to do anything?' 
I asked. 

"She had an impatient movement of her shoulders 
without detaching herself from the back of the chair. 
Time! Of course! It was less than forty -eight hours 
since she had followed him to London. ... 1 am 
no great clerk at those matters but I murmured vaguely 
an allusion to special licences. We Wouldn't tell what 
might have happened to-day already. But she knew 
better, scornfully. Nothing had happened. 

"Nothing's likely to happen before next Friday 
week, — if then.' 

"This was wonderfully precise. Then after a pause 
she added that she should never forgive herself if some 
effort were not made, an appeal. 

'"To your brother? ' I asked. 

"'Yes. John ought to go to-morrow. Nine o'clock 

" ' So early as that ! ' I said. But I could not find it in 
my heart to pursue this discussion in a jocular tone. I 
submitted to her several obvious arguments, dictated 
apparently by common sense but in reality by my 
secret compassion. Mrs. Fyne brushed them aside, 
with the semi-conscious egoism of all safe, established 
existences. They had known each other so little. Just 
three weeks. And of that time, too short for the birth 
of any serious sentiment, the first week had to be 
deducted. They would hardly look at each other to 
begin with. Flora barely consented to acknowledge 
Captain Anthony's presence, Good morning — good- 


night — that was all — absolutely the whole extent of 
their intercourse. Captain Anthony was a silent man, 
completely unused to the society of girls of any sort 
and so shy in fact that he avoided raising his eyes to her 
face at the table. It was perfectly absurd. It was 
even inconvenient, embarrassing to her — Mrs. Fyne. 
After breakfast Flora would go off by herself for a long 
walk and Captain Anthony (Mrs. Fyne referred to him 
at times also as Roderick) joined the children. But he 
was actually too shy to get on terms with his own nieces. 

"This would have sounded pathetic if I hadn't known 
the Fyne children who were at the same time solemn 
and malicious, and nursed a secret contempt for all the 
world. No one could get on terms with those fresh and 
comely young monsters! They just tolerated their 
parents and seemed to have a sort of mocking under- 
standing among themselves against all outsiders, yet 
with no visible affection for each other. They had the 
habit of exchanging derisive glances which to a shy man 
must have been very trying. They thought their 
uncle no doubt a bore and perhaps an ass. 

" I was not surprised to hear that very soon Anthony 
formed the habit of crossing the two neighbouring 
fields to seek the shade of a clump of elms at a good dis- 
tance from the cottage. He lay on the grass and 
smoked his pipe all the morning. Mrs. Fyne wondered 
at her brother's indolent habits. He had asked for 
books, it is true, but there were but few in the cottage. 
He read them through in three days and then continued 
to lie contentedly on his back with no other companion 
but his pipe. Amazing indolence! The live-long 
morning, Mrs. Fyne, busy writing upstairs in the 
cottage, could see him out of the window. She had a 
very long sight, and these elms were grouped on a rise 
of the ground. His indolence was plainly exposed to 


her criticism on a gentle green slope. Mrs. Fyne 
wondered at it; she was disgusted too. But having 
just then 'commenced author,' as you know, she could 
not tear herself away from the fascinating novelty. 
She let him wallow in his vice. I imagine Captain 
Anthony must have had a rather pleasant time in a 
quiet way. It was, I remember, a hot dry summer, 
favourable to contemplative life out of doors. And 
Mrs. Fyne was scandalized. Women don't understand 
the force of a contemplative temperament. It simply 
shocks them. They feel instinctively that it is the one 
which escapes best the domination of feminine in- 
fluences. The dear girls were exchanging jeering re 
marks about 'lazy uncle Roderick' openly, in hex 
indulgent hearing. And it was so strange, she told me, 
because as a boy he was anything but indolent. On 
the contrary. Always active. 

" I remarked that a man of thirty-five was no longer 
a boy. It was an obvious remark but she received it 
without favour. She told me positively that the best, 
the nicest men remained boys all their lives. She was 
disappointed not to be able to detect anything boyish 
in her brother. Very, very sorry. She had not seen 
him for fifteen years or thereabouts, except on three or 
four occasions for a few hours at a time. No. Not a 
trace of the boy, he used to be, left in him. 

" She fell silent for a moment and I mused idly on the 
boyhood of little Fyne. I could not imagine what it 
might have been like. His dominant trait was clearly 
the remnant of still earlier days, because I've never seen 
such staring solemnity as Fyne's except in a very young 
baby. But where was he all that time? Didn't he 
suffer contamination from the indolence of Captain 
Anthony? I inquired. I was told that Mr. Fyne was 
very little at the cottage at the time. Some colleague of 


his was convalescing after a severe illness in a little sea- 
side village in the neighbourhood and Fyne went off 
every morning by train to spend the day with the elderly 
invalid who had no one to look after him. It was a very 
praiseworthy excuse for neglecting his brother-in-law, 
'the son of the poet, you know,' with whom he had 
nothing in common even in the remotest degree. If 
Captain Anthony (Roderick) had been a pedestrian it 
would have been sufficient; but he was not. Still, in 
the afternoon, he went sometimes for a slow casual 
stroll, by himself of course, the children having defi- 
nitely cold-shouldered him, and his only sister being 
busy with that inflammatory book which was to blaze 
upon the world a year or more afterwards. It seems 
however that she was capable of detaching her eyes from 
her task now and then, if only for a moment, because it 
was from that garret fitted out for a study that one 
afternoon she observed her brother and Flora de Barral 
coming down the road side by side. They had met 
somewhere accidentally (which of them crossed the 
other's path, as the saying is, I don't know), and were 
returning to tea together. She noticed that they ap- 
peared to be conversing without constraint. 

" 'I had the simplicity to be pleased,' Mrs. Fyne com- 
mented with a dry little laugh. 'Pleased for both 
their sakes.' Captain Anthony shook off his indolence 
from that day forth, and accompanied Miss Flora 
frequently on her morning walks. Mrs. Fyne re- 
mained pleased. She could now forget them com- 
fortably and give herself up to the delights of audacious 
thought and literary composition. Only a week before 
the blow fell she, happening to raise her eyes from the 
paper, saw two figures seated on the grass under the 
shade of the elms. She could make out the white 
blouse. There could be no mistake. 


"'I suppose they imagined themselves concealed by 
the hedge. They forgot no doubt I was working in the 
garret,' she said bitterly. 'Or perhaps they didn't 
care. They were right. I am rather a simple per- 
son . . .' She laughed again . . . 'I was 
incapable of suspecting such duplicity.' 

"'Duplicity is a strong word, Mrs. Fyne — isn't it?' 
I expostulated. 'And considering that Captain An- 
thony himself . . .' 

'"Oh well — perhaps,' she interrupted me. Her eyes 
which never strayed away from mine, her set features, 
her whole immovable figure, how well I knew those 
appearances of a person who has 'made up her mind.' 
A very hopeless condition that, specially in women. I 
mistrusted her concession so easily, so stonily made. 
She reflected a moment. 'Yes. I ought to have 
said — ingratitude, perhaps.' 

"After having thus disengaged her brother and pushed 
the poor girl a little further off as it were — isn't women's 
cleverness perfectly diabolic when they are really put 
on their mettle? — after having done these things and 
also made me feel that I was no match for her, she went 
on scrupulously: 'One doesn't like to use that word 
either. The claim is very small. It's so little one 
could do for her. Still . . .' 

" T dare say,' I exclaimed, throwing diplomacy to the 
winds. 'But really, Mrs. Fyne, it's impossible to dis- 
miss your brother like this out of the business . . .' 

"'She threw herself at his head,' Mrs. Fyne uttered 

"'He had no business to put his head in the way, 
then,' I retorted with an angry laugh. I didn't restrain 
myself because her fixed stare seemed to express the 
purpose to daunt me. I was not afraid of her, but 
it occurred to me that I was within an ace of drifting 


into a downright quarrel with a lady and, besides, my 
guest. There was the cold teapot, the emptied cups, 
emblems of hospitality. It could not be. I cut short 
my angry laugh while Mrs. Fyne murmured with a 
slight movement of her shoulder, 'He! Poor man! 
Oh come . . .' 

"By a great effort of will I found myself able to smile 
amiably, to speak with proper softness. 

"'My dear Mrs. Fyne, you forget that I don't know 
him — not even by sight. It's difficult to imagine a 
victim as passive as all that; but granting you the 
(I very nearly said: imbecility, but checked myself in 
time) innocence of Captain Anthony, don't you think 
now, frankly, that there is a little of your own fault in 
what has happened? You bring them together, you 
leave your brother to himself!' 

"She sat up and leaning her elbow on the table sus- 
tained her head in her open palm, casting down her eyes. 
Compunction? It was indeed a very off-hand way of 
treating a brother come to stay for the first time ip 
fifteen years. I suppose she discovered very soon that 
she had nothing in common with that sailor, that 
stranger, fashioned and marked by the sea of long 
voyages. In her strong-minded way she had scorned 
pretences, had gone to her writing which interested her 
immensely. A very praiseworthy thing, your sincere 
conduct, — if it didn't at times resemble brutality so 
much. But I don't think it was compunction. That 
sentiment is rare in women . . ." 

"Is it?" I interrupted indignantly. 

"You know more women than I do," retorted the un- 
abashed Marlow. "You make it your business to know 
them — don't you? You go about a lot amongst all 
sorts of people. You are a tolerably honest observer. 
Well, just try to remember how many instances of 


compunction you have seen. I am ready to take your 
bare word for it. Compunction! Have you ever seen 
as much as its shadow? Have you ever? Just a 
shadow — a passing shadow! I tell you it is so rare that 
you may call it non-existent. They are too passionate. 
Too pedantic. Too courageous with themselves — 
perhaps. No, I don't think for a moment that Mrs. 
Fyne felt the slightest compunction at her treatment 
of her sea-going brother. What he thought of it who 
can tell? It is possible that he wondered why he had 
been so insistently urged to come. It is possible that 
he wondered bitterly — or contemptuously — or humbly. 
And it may be that he was only surprised and bored. 
Had he been as sincere in his conduct as his only sister 
he would have probably taken himself off at the end of 
the second day. But perhaps he was afraid of appear- 
ing brutal. I am not far removed from the conviction 
that between the sincerities of his sister and of his dear 
nieces, Captain Anthony of the Ferndale must have had 
his loneliness brought home to his bosom for the first 
time of his life, at an age, thirty-five or thereabouts, 
when one is mature enough to feel the pang of such a 
discovery. Angry or simply sad but certainly dis- 
illusioned he wanders about and meets the girl one 
afternoon and under the sway of a strong feeling for- 
gets his shyness. This is no supposition. It is a fact. 
There was such a meeting in which the shyness must 
have perished before we don't know what encourage- 
ment, or in the community of mood made apparent by 
some casual word. You remember that Mrs. Fyne 
saw them one afternoon coming back to the cottage 
together. Don't you think that I have hit on the 
psychology of the situation? . . ." 

"Doubtless ..." 1 began to ponder. 

"I was very certain of my conclusions at the time," 


Marlow went on impatiently. "But don't think for a 
moment that Mrs. Fyne in her new attitude and toying 
thoughtfully with a teaspoon was about to surrender. 
She murmured: 

"'It's the last thing I should have thought could 

'"You didn't suppose they were romantic enough,' 
I suggested dryly. 

"She let it pass and with great decision, but as if 
speaking to herself: 

"'Roderick really must be warned.' 

"She didn't give me the time to ask of what precisely. 
She raised her head and addressed me. 

"'I am surprised and grieved more than I can tell you 
at Mr. Fyne's resistance. We have been always com- 
pletely at one on every question. And that we should 
differ now on a point touching my brother so closely is 
a most painful surprise to me.' Her hand rattled the 
teaspoon brusquely by an involuntary movement. 'It 
is intolerable/ she added tempestuously — for Mrs. 
Fyne that is. I suppose she had nerves of her own like 
any other woman. 

"Under the porch where Fyne had sought refuge with 
the dog there was silence. I took it for a proof of deep 
sagacity. I don't mean on the part of the dog. Ht 
was a confirmed fool. 

"I said: 'You want absolutely to interfere . . .?' 
Mrs. Fyne nodded just perceptibly . . . 'Well— 
for my part . . . but I don't really know how 
matters stand at the present time. You have had a 
letter from Miss de Barral. What does that letter 

"She asks for her valise to be sent to her town, ad- 
dre3s,' Mrs. Fyne uttered reluctantly and stopped, I 
waited a bit — then exploded. ' 


"'Well! What's the matter? Where's the difficulty? 
Does your husband object to that? You don't mean to 
say that he wants you to appropriate the girl's clothes? ' 

"'Mr. Marlow!' 

" ' Well, but you talk of a painful difference of opinion 
with your husband, and then, when I ask for informa- 
tion on the point, you bring out a valise. And only a 
few moments ago you reproached me for not* being 
serious. I wonder who is the serious person of us two 

"She smiled faintly and in a friendly tone, from which 
I concluded at once that she did not mean to show me 
the girl's letter, she said that undoubtedly the letter dis- 
closed an understanding between Captain Anthony and 
Flora de Barral. 

" ' What understanding? ' I pressed her. 'An engage- 
ment is an understanding.' 

'"There is no engagement — not yet,' she said de- 
cisively. ' That letter, Mr. Marlow, is couched in very 
vague terms. That is why ' 

"I interrupted her without ceremony. 

" ' You still hope to interfere to some purpose. Isn't 
it so? Yes? But how should you have liked it if any- 
body had tried to interfere between you and Mr. Fyne 
at the time when your understanding with each other 
could still have been described in vague terms?' 

"She had a genuine movement of astonished indig- 
nation. It was with the accent of perfect sincerity that 
she cried out at me: 'But it isn't at all the same thing! 
How can you ! ' 

" Indeed how could I ! The daughter of a poet and the 
daughter of a convict are not comparable in the conse- 
quences of their conduct if their necessity may wear at 
times a similar aspect. Amongst these consequences 
I could perceive undesirable cousins for these dear 


healthy girls, and such like, possible causes of em- 
barrassment in the future. 

" 'No! You can't be serious,' Mrs. Fyne's smoulder- 
ing resentment broke out again. 'You haven't 


'Oh yes, Mrs. Fyne! I have thought. I am still 
thinking. I am even trying to think like you.' 

"'Mr. Marlow,' she said earnestly. 'Believe me 
that I really am thinking of my brother, in all this . . . l 
I assured her that I quite believed she was. For there 
is no" law of nature making it impossible to think of 
more than one person at a time. Then I said : 

" ' She has told him all about herself of course.' 

" 'All about her life,' assented Mrs. Fyne with an air, 
however, of making some mental reservation which I 
did not pause to investigate. 'Her life!' I repeated. 
'That girl must have had a mighty bad time of it.' 

"'Horrible,' Mrs. Fyne admitted with a ready 
frankness very creditable under the circumstances, and 
a warmth of tone which made me look at her with a 
friendly eye. 'Horrible! No! You can't imagine the 
sort of vulgar people she became dependent on . . . 
You know her father never attempted to see her while 
he was still at large. After his arrest he instructed that 
relative of his — the odious person who took her away 
from Brighton — not to let his daughter come to the 
court during the trial. He refused to hold any com' 
munication with her whatever.' 

" I remembered what Mrs. Fyne had told me before of 
the view she had years ago of de Barral clinging to the 
child at the side of his wife's grave and later on of these 
two walking hand in hand the observed of all eyes by 
the sea. Figures from Dickens — pregnant with pathos. 



" 'A vert singular prohibition,' remarked Mrs. Fyne 
after a short silence. 'He seemed to love the child.' 

"She was puzzled. But I surmised that it might have 
been the sullenness of a man unconscious of guilt and 
standing at bay to fight his 'persecutors,' as he called 
them; or else the fear of a softer emotion weakening his 
defiant attitude; perhaps, even, it was a self-denying 
ordinance, in order to spare the girl the sight of her 
father in the dock, accused of cheating, sentenced as a 
swindler — proving the possession of a certain moral 

" Mrs. Fyne didn't know what to think. She supposed 
it might have been mere callousness. But the people 
amongst whom the girl had fallen had positively not 
a grain of moral delicacy. Of that she was certain. 
Mrs. Fyne could not undertake to give me an idea of 
their abominable vulgarity. Flora used to tell her 
something of her life in that household, over there, 
down Limehouse way. It was incredible. It passed 
Mrs. Fyne's comprehension. It was a sort of moral 
savagery which she could not have thought possible. 

" I, on the contrary, thought it very possible. I could 
imagine easily how the poor girl must have been be- 
wildered and hurt at her reception in that household — ■ 
envied for her past while delivered defenceless to the 
tender mercies of people without any fineness either of 
/eeling or mind, unable to understand her misery, 



grossly curious, mistaking her manner for disdain, her 
silent shrinking for pride. The wife of the 'odious 
person' was witless and fatuously conceited. Of the 
two girls of the house one was pious and the other a 
romp; both were coarse-minded — if they may be 
credited with any mind at all. The rather numerous 
men of the family were dense and grumpy, or dense and 
jocose. None in that grubbing lot had enough hu- 
manity to leave her alone. At first she was made much 
of, in an offensively patronizing manner. The con- 
nection with the great de Barral gratified their vanity 
even in the moment of the smash. They dragged her to 
their place of worship, whatever it might have been, 
where the congregation stared at her, and they gave 
parties to other beings like themselves at which they 
exhibited her with ignoble self-satisfaction. She did 
not know how to defend herself from their impor- 
tunities, insolence and exigencies. She lived amongst 
them, a passive victim, quivering in every nerve, as if 
she were flayed. After the trial her position became 
still worse. On the least occasion and even on no 
occasions at all she was scolded, or else taunted with her 
dependence. The pious girl lectured her on her defects, 
the romping girl teased her with contemptuous refer- 
ences to her accomplishments, and was always trying to 
pick insensate quarrels with her about some 'fellow' 
or other. The mother backed up her girls invariably, 
adding her own silly, wounding remarks. I must say 
they were probably not aware of the ugliness of their 
conduct. They were nasty amongst themselves as a 
matter of course; their disputes were nauseating in 
origin, in manner, in the spirit of mean selfishness. 
These women, too, seemed to enjoy greatly any sort of 
row and were always ready to combine together to make 
awful scenes to the luckless girl on incredibly flimsy 

FLORA 165 

pretences. Thus Flora on one occasion had been re- 
duced to rage and despair, had her most secret feelings 
lacerated, had obtained a view of the utmost baseness to 
which common human nature can descend — I won't 
say a propos de bottes as the French would excellently 
put it, but literally d propos of some mislaid cheap lace 
trimmings for a nightgown the romping one was mak- 
ing for herself. Yes, that was the origin of one of the 
grossest scenes which, in their repetition, must have had 
a deplorable effect on the unformed character of the 
most pitiful of de Barral's victims. I have it from Mrs. 
Fyne. The girl turned up at the Fynes' house at half- 
past nine on a cold, drizzly evening. She had walked 
bareheaded, I believe, just as she ran out of the house, 
from somewhere in Poplar to the neighbourhood of 
Sloane Square — without stopping, without drawing 
breath, if only for a sob. 

"'We were having some people to dinner,' said the 
anxious sister of Captain Anthony. 

"She had heard the front door bell and wondered 
what it might mean. The parlourmaid managed to 
whisper to her without attracting attention. The 
servants had been frightened by the invasion of that 
wild girl in a muddy skirt and with wisps of damp hair 
sticking to her pale cheeks. But they had seen her 
before. This was not the first occasion, nor yet the 

"Directly she could slip away from her guests Mrs. 
Fyne ran upstairs. 

"'I found her in the night nursery crouching on the 
floor, her head resting on the cot of the youngest of my 
girls. The eldest was sitting up in bed looking at her 
across the room.' 

"Only a nightlight was burning there. Mrs. Fyne 
raised her up, took her over to Mr. Fyne's little dressing* 


room on the other side of the landing, to a fire by which 
she could dry herself, and left her there. She had to 
go back to her guests. 

"A most disagreeable surprise it must have been to 
the Fynes. Afterwards they both went up and inter- 
viewed the girl. She jumped up at their entrance. 
She had shaken her damp hair loose; her eyes were dry 
— with the heat of rage. 

"I can imagine little Fyne solemnly sympathetic, 
solemnly listening, solemnly retreating to the marital 
bedroom. Mrs. Fyne pacified the girl, and, fortunately, 
there was a bed which could be made up for her in the 

'"But what could one do after all!' concluded Mrs. 

"And this stereotyped exclamation, expressing the 
difficulty of the problem and the readiness (at any 
rate) of good intentions, made me, as usual, feel more 
kindly towards her. 

"Next morning, very early, long before Fyne had to 1 
start for his office, the 'odious personage,' turned up, 
not exactly unexpected perhaps, but startling all the 
same, if only by the promptness of his action. From 
what Flora herself related to Mrs. Fyne, it seems that 
without being very perceptibly less 'odious' than his 
family he had in a rather mysterious fashion interposed 
his authority for the protection of the girl. 'Not that 
he cares, ' explained Flora. ' I am sure he does not. I 
could not stand being liked by any of these people. If 
I thought he liked me I would drown myself rather 
than go back with him. ' 

"For of course he had come to take 'Florrie' home. 
The scene was the dining-room — breakfast interrupted, 
dishes growing cold, little Fyne's toast growing leathery, 
Fyne out of his chair with his back to the fire, the news- 

FLORA 167 

paper on the carpet, servants shut out, Mrs. Fyne rigid 
in her place with the girl sitting beside her — the 'odious 
person,' who had bustled in with hardly a greeting, 
looking from Fyne to Mrs 1 . Fyne as though he were 
inwardly amused at something he knew of them; and 
then beginning ironically his discourse. He did not 
apologize for disturbing Fyne and his 'good lady' at 
breakfast, because he knew they did not want (with 
a nod at the girl) to have more of her than could be 
helped. He came the first possible moment because 
he had his business to attend to. He wasn't drawing 
a tip-top salary (this staring at Fyne) in a luxuriously 
furnished office. Not he. He had risen to be an em- 
ployer of labour and was bound to give a good example. 
"I believe the fellow was aware of, and enjoyed 
quietly, the consternation his presence brought to the 
bosom of Mr. and Mrs. Fyne. He turned briskly to 
the girl. Mrs. Fyne confessed to me that they had 
remained all three silent and inanimate. He turned to 
the girl: 'What's this game, Florrie? You had better 
give it up. If you expect me to run all over London 
looking for you every time you happen to have a tiff 
with your auntie and cousins you are mistaken. I 
can't afford it.' 

" Tiff — was the sort of definition to take one's breath 
away, having regard to the fact that both the word 
convict and the word pauper had been used a moment 
before Flora de Barral ran away from the quarrel about 
the lace trimmings. Yes, these very words! So at 
least the girl had told Mrs. Fyne the evening before. 
The word tiff in connection with her tale had a peculiar 
savour, a paralysing effect. Nobody made a sound. 
The relative of de Barral proceeded uninterrupted to a 
display of magnanimity. 'Auntie told me to tell you 
Bhe's, sorry — there! And Amelia (the romping sister) 


shan't worry you again. I'll see to that. You ought 
to be satisfied. Remember your position.' 

"Emboldened by the utter stillness pervading the 
room he addressed himself to Mrs. Fyne with stolid 
effrontery — 

'""What I say is that people should be good-natured. 
She can't stand being chaffed. She puts on her grand 
airs. She won't take a bit of a joke from people as 
good as herself anyway. We are a plain lot. We don't 
like it. And that's how trouble begins.' 

"Insensible to the stony stare of three pairs of eyes, 
which, if the stories of our childhood as to the power 
of the human eye are true, ought to have been enough 
to daunt a tiger, that unabashed manufacturer from 
the East End fastened his fangs, figuratively speaking, 
into the poor girl and prepared to drag her away for a 
prey to his cubs of both sexes. 

'"Auntie has thought of sending you your hat and 
coat. I've got them outside in the cab.' 

"Mrs. Fyne looked mechanically out of the window. 
A four-wheeler stood before the gate under the weeping 
sky. The driver in his conical cape and tarpaulin hat, 
streamed with water. The drooping horse looked as 
though it had been fished out, half unconscious, from 
a pond. Mrs. Fyne found some relief in looking at that, 
miserable sight, away from the room in which the voice 
of the amiable visitor resounded with a vulgar intonation 
exhorting the strayed sheep to return to the delightful 
fold. 'Come, Florrie, make a move. I can't wait on 
you all day here.' 

"Mrs. Fyne heard all this without turning her head 
away from the window. Fyne on the hearthrug had 
to listen and to look on too. I shall not try to form a 
surmise as to the real nature of the suspense. Their 
yery goodness must have made ^ very anxious. The 

FLORA 169 

girl's hands were lying in her lap; her head was lowered 
as if in deep thought; and the other went on delivering 
a sort of homily. Ingratitude was condemned in it, 
the sinfulness of pride was pointed out — together with 
the proverbial fact that it 'goes before a fall.' There 
were also some sound remarks as to the danger of non- 
sensical notions and the disadvantages of a quick temper. 
It sets one's best friends against one. 'And if anybody 
ever wanted friends in the world it's you, my girl.' 
Even respect for parental authority was invoked. 'In 
the first hour of his trouble your father wrote to me to 
take care of you — don't forget it. Yes, to me, just a 
plain man, rather than to any of his fine West-End 
friends. You can't get over that. And a father's a 
father no matter what a mess he's got himself into. You 
ain't going to throw over your own father — are you?' 

"It was difficult to say whether he was more absurd 
than cruel or more cruel than absurd. Mrs. Fyne, 
with the fine ear of a woman, seemed to detect a jeering 
intention in his meanly unctuous tone, something 
more vile than mere cruelty. She glanced quickly 
over her shoulder and saw the girl raise her two hands 
to her head, then let them fall again on her lap. Fyne 
in front of the fire was like the victim of an unholy spell 
— bereft of motion and speech but obviously in pain. 
It was a short pause of perfect silence, and then that 
'odious creature' (he must have been really a remarka- 
ble individual in his way) struck out into sarcasm. 

"'Well? . . .' Again a silence. 'If you have 
fixed it up with the lady and gentleman present here 
for your board and lodging you had better say so. I 
don't want to interfere in a bargain I know nothing of. 
But I wonder how your father will take it when he 
comes out ... or don't you expect him ever to 
come out?' 


"At that moment, Mrs. Fyne told me she met the 
girl's eyes. There was that in them which made her 
shut her own. She also felt as though she would have 
liked to put her fingers in her ears. She restrained 
herself, however; and the 'plain man' passed in his 
appalling versatility from sarcasm to veiled menace. 

"'You have — eh? Well and good. But before I go 
home let me ask you, my girl, to think if by any chance 
you throwing us over like this won't be rather bad for 
your father later on? Just think it over.' 

"He looked at his victim with an air of cunning mys- 
tery. She jumped up so suddenly that he started back. 
Mrs. Fyne rose too, and even the spell was removed 
from her husband. But the girl dropped again into 
the chair and turned her head to look at Mrs. Fyne. 
This time it was no accidental meeting of fugitive 
glances. It was a deliberate communication. To 
my question as to its nature Mrs. Fyne said she did not 
know. 'Was it appealing?' I suggested. 'No,' she 
said. 'Was it frightened, angry, crushed, resigned?' 
'No! No! Nothing of these.' But it had frightened 
her. She remembered it to this day. She had been 
ever since fancying she could detect the lingering re- 
flection of that look in all the girl's glances. In the at- 
tentive, in the casual — even in the grateful glances 
— in the expression of the softest moods. 

"Has she her soft moods, then?' I asked with inter- 

" Mrs. Fyne, much moved by her recollections, heeded , 
not my inquiry. All her mental energy was concen- 
trated on the nature of that memorable glance. The 
general tradition of mankind teaches us that glances 
occupy a considerable place in the self-expression of 
women. Mrs. Fyne was trying honestly to give me 
some idea, as much perhaps to satisfy her own uneasi- 

FLORA 171 

mess as my curiosity. She was frowning in the effort as 
you see sometimes a child do (what is delightful in 
women is that they so often resemble intelligent chil- 
dren — I mean the crustiest, the sourest, the most 
battered of them do — at times). She was frowning, I 
say, and I was beginning to smile faintly at her when 
all at once she came out with something totally un- 

"'It was horribly merry,' she said. 
"I suppose she must have been satisfied by my sudden 
gravity because she looked at me in a friendly manner. 

"'Yes, Mrs. Fyne,' I said, smiling no longer. 'I see. 
It would have been horrible even on the stage.' 

Ah ! ' she interrupted me — and I really believe her 
change of attitude back to folded arms was meant to 
theck a shudder. 'But it wasn't on the stage, and it 
was not with her lips that she laughed.' 

" ' Yes. It must have been horrible, ' I assented. 'And 
then she had to go away ultimately — I suppose. You 
didn't say anything? ' 

* ' No, ' said Mrs. Fyne. ' I rang the bell and told one 
of the maids to go and bring the hat and coat out of the 
cab. And then we waited.' 

"I don't think that there ever was such waiting, un- 
less possibly in a jail at some moment or other on the 
morning of an execution. The servant appeared with 
the hat and coat, and then, still as on the morning of an 
execution, when the condemned, I believe, is offered 
a breakfast, Mrs. Fyne, anxious that the white-faced 
girl should swallow something warm (if she could) 
before leaving her house for an interminable drive 
through raw cold air in a damp four-wheeler — Mrs. 
Fyne broke the awful silence: 'You really must try 
to eat something,' in her best resolute manner. She 
turned to the 'odious person/ with the same determina- 


tion. 'Perhaps you will sit down and have a cup of 
coffee, too.' 

"The worthy 'employer of labour' sat down. He 
might have been awed by Mrs. Fyne's peremptory 
manner — for she did not think of conciliating him then. 
He sat down provisionally, like a man who finds himself 
much against his will in doubtful company. He ac- 
cepted ungraciously the cup handed to him by Mrs. 
Fyne, took an unwilling sip or two and put it down as 
if there were some moral contamination in the coffee 
of these 'swells.' Between whiles he directed mysteri- 
ously inexpressive glances at little Fyne, who, I gather, 
had no breakfast that morning at all. Neither had the 
girl. She never moved her hands from her lap till her 
appointed guardian got up, leaving his cup half full. 

" ' Well. If you don't mean to take advantage of this 
lady's kind offer I may just as well take you home at 
©nee. I want to begin my day— I do.' 

"After a few more dumb, leaden-footed minutes 
while Flora was putting on her hat and jacket, the 
Fynes without moving, without saying anything, saw 
these two leave the room. 

" ' She never looked back at us, ' said Mrs. Fyne. ' She 
just followed him out. I've never had such a crushing 
impression of the miserable dependence of girls — of 
women. This was an extreme case. But a young 
man' — any man — could have gone to break stones on 
the roads or something of that kind — or enlisted — 
or ' 

" It was very true. Women can't go forth on the high 
roads and by-ways to pick up a living even when 
dignity, independence or existence itself are at stake. 
But what made me interrupt Mrs. Fyne's tirade was 
my profound surprise at the fact of that respectable 
citizen being so willing to keep in his home the poor girl 

FLORA 173 

for whom it seemed there was no place in the world. 
And not only willing but anxious. I couldn't credit 
him with generous impulses. For it seemed obvious 
to me from what I had learned that, to put it mildly, 
he was not an impulsive person. 

" 'I confess that I can't understand his' notive,' I ex- 

" This is exactly what John wondered at, at first, ' said 
Mrs. Fyne. By that time an intimacy — if not exactly 
confidence — had sprung up between us which permitted 
her in this discussion to refer to her husband as John. 
'You know he had not opened his lips all that time,' 
she pursued. 'I don't blame his restraint. On the 
contrary. What could he have said? I could see he 
was observing the man very thoughtfully.' 

And so, Mr. Fyne listened, observed and meditated,' 
I said. 'That's an excellent way of coming to a con- 
clusion. And may I ask at what conclusion he had 
managed to arrive? On what ground did he cease tc 
wonder at the inexplicable? For I can't admit human- 
ity to be the explanation. It would be too monstrous." 

"It was nothing of the sort Mrs. Fyne assured me 
with some resentment, as though I had aspersed little 
Fyne's sanity. Fyne very sensibly had set himself 
the mental task of discovering the self-interest. I 
should not have thought him capable of so much cyni- 
cism. He said to himself that for people of that sort 
(religious fears or the vanity of righteousness put aside) 
money — not great wealth, but money, just a little 
money — is the measure of virtue, of expediency, of 
wisdom — of pretty well everything. But the girl was 
absolutely destitute. The father was in prison after 
the most terribly complete and disgraceful smash of 
modern times. And then it dawned upon Fyne that 
this was just it. The great smash, in the great dust 


of vanishing millions! Was it possible that they all 
had vanished to the last penny? Wasn't there, some- 
where, something palpable; some fragment of the 
fabric left? 

'"That's it,' had exclaimed Fyne, startling his wife 
by this explosive unsealing of his lips less than half an 
hour after the departure of de Barral's cousin with de 
Barral's daughter. It was still in the dining-room, very 
near the time for him to go forth affronting the elements 
in order to put in another day's work in his country's 
service. All he could say at the moment in elucidation 
of this breakdown from his usual placid solemnity was— 

'"The fellow imagines that de Barral has got some 
plunder put away somewhere.' 

"This being the theory arrived at by Fyne, his com- 
ment on it was that a good many bankrupts had been 
known to have taken such a precaution. It was possi- 
ble in de Barral's case. Fyne went so far in his display 
of cynical pessimism as to say that it was extremely 

"He explained at length to Mrs. Fyne that de Barral 
certainly did not take any one into his confidence. 
But the beastly relative had made up his low mind 
that it was so. He was selfish and pitiless in his stupid- 
ity, but he had clearly conceived the notion of making 
a claim on de Barral when de Barral came out of prison 
on the strength of having 'looked after' (as he would 
have himself expressed it) his daughter. He nursed 
his hopes, such as they were, in secret, and it is to be 
supposed kept them even from his wife. 

"I could see it very well. That belief accounted for 
his mysterious air while he interfered in favour of the 
girl. He was the only protector she had. It was as 
though Flora had been fated to be always surrounded 
bv _ treachery and lies stifling every better impulse, 

FLORA 175 

every instinctive aspiration of her soul to trust and to 
love. It would have been enough to drive a fine nature 
into the madness of universal suspicion — into any sort 
of madness. I don't know how far a sense of humour 
will stand by one. To the foot of the gallows, perhaps. 
But from my recollection of Flora de Barral I feared 
that she hadn't much sense of humour. She had cried 
at the desertion of the absurd Fyne dog. That animal 
was certainly free from duplicity. He was frank and 
simple and ridiculous. The indignation of the girl at 
his unhypocritical behaviour had been funny but not 

"As you may imagine I was not very anxious to re- 
sume the discussion on the justice, expediency, effective- 
ness or what not, of Fyne's journey to London. It 
isn't that I was unfaithful to little Fyne out in the 
yorch with the dog. (They kept amazingly quiet 
there. Could they have gone to sleep?) What I 
felt was that either my sagacity or my conscience would 
come out damaged from that campaign. And no 
man will willingly put himself in the way of moral 
damage. I did not want a war with Mrs. Fyne. I 
"much preferred to hear something more of the girl. 
I said — 

" 'And so she went away with that respectable ruffian.' 
"Mrs. Fyne moved her shoulders slightly — 'What 
else could she have done?' I agreed with her by an- 
other hopeless gesture. It isn't so easy for a girl like 
Flora de Barral to become a factory hand, a pathetic 
seamstress or even a barmaid. She wouldn't have 
known how to begin. She was the captive of the mean- 
est conceivable fate. And she wasn't mean enough for 
it. It is to be remarked that a good many people are 
born curiously unfitted for the fate awaiting them on 
this earth. As I don't want you to think that I am 


unduly partial to the girl we shall say that she failed 
decidedly to endear herself to that simple, virtuous and, 
I believe, teetotal household. It's my conviction that 
an angel would have failed likewise. It's no use going 
into details; suffice it to state that, before the year was 
out she was again at the Fynes' door. 

"This time she was escorted by a stout youth. His 
large pale face wore a smile of inane cunning soured by 
annoyance. His clothes were new and the indescriba- 
ble smartness of their cut, a genre which had never been 
obtruded on her notice before, astonished Mrs. Fyne, 
who came out into the hall with her hat on; for she was 
about to go out to hear a new pianist (a girl) in a friend's 
douse. The youth addressing Mrs. Fyne easily begged 
her not to let 'that silly thing go back to us any more.' 
There had been, he said, nothing but 'ructions' at home 
about her for the last three weeks. Everybody in the 
family was heartily sick of quarrelling. His governor 
had charged him to bring her to this address and say 
that the lady and gentleman were quite welcome to all 
there was in it. She hadn't enough sense to appreciate a 
plain, honest English home and she was better out of it. 

"The young pimply -faced fellow was vexed by this 
job his governor had sprung on him. It was the cause 
of his missing an appointment for that afternoon with 
a certain young lady. The lady he was engaged to. 
But he meant to dash back and try for a sight of her 
that evening yet 'if he were to burst over it.' 'Good- 
bye, Florrie. Good luck to you — and I hope I'll never 
see your face again.' 

"With that he ran out in lover-like haste leaving the 
hall-door wide open. Mrs. Fyne had not found a 
word to say. She had been too much taken aback 
even to gasp freely. But she had the presence of mind 
bo grab the girl's arm just as she, too, was running out 

FLORA 177 

into the street — with the haste, I suppose, of despair 
and to keep I don't know what tragic tryst. 

"'You stopped her with your own hand, Mrs. Fyne,' 
I said. 'I presume she meant to get away. That 
girl is no comedian — if I am any judge.' 

"Yes! I had to use some force to drag her in.' 

"Mrs. Fyne had no difficulty in stating the truth. 
You see I was in the very act of letting myself out 
when these two appeared. So that, when that unpleas- 
ant young man ran off, I found myself alone with Flora. 
It was all I could do to hold her in the hall while I called 
to the servants to come and shut the door.' 

"As is my habit, or my weakness, or my gift, I don't 
know which, I visualized the story for myself. I really 
can't help it. And the vision of Mrs. Fyne dressed 
for a rather special afternoon function, engaged in 
wrestling with a wild-eyed, white-faced girl, had a cer- 
tain dramatic fascination. 

" 'Really ! ' I murmured. 

"'Oh! There's no doubt that she struggled,' said 
Mrs. Fyne. She compressed her lips for a moment 
and then added: 'as to her being a comedian that's 
another question.' 

"Mrs. Fyne' had returned to her attitude of folded 
arms. I saw before me the daughter of the refined poet 
accepting life whole with its unavoidable conditions of 
which one of the first is the instinct of self-preservation 
and the egoism of every living creature. 'The fact remains 
nevertheless that you — yourself — have, in your own 
words, pulled her in,' I insisted in a jocular tone, w'th 
a serious intention. 

"'What was one to do?' exclaimed Mrs. Fyne with 
almost comic exasperation. 'Are you reproaching me 
with being too impulsive?' 

"And she went on telling me that she was not that k 


in the least. One of the recommendations she always 
insisted on (to the girl-friends, I imagine) was to be on 
guard against impulse. Always! But I had not been 
there to see the face of Flora at the time. If I had it 
would be haunting me to this day. Nobody unless 
made of iron would have allowed a human being with 
a face like that to rush out alone into the streets. 

"'And doesn't it haunt you, Mrs. Fyne?' I asked. 

'"No, not now,' she said implacably. 'Perhaps if I 
had let her go it might have done. . . . Don't con- 
clude, though, that I think she was playing a comedy 
then, because after struggling at first she ended by re- 
maining. She gave up very suddenly. She collapsed 
in our arms, mine and the maid's who came running 
up in response to my calls, and . . . ' 

"'And the door was then shut,' I completed the 
phrase in my own way. 

'"Yes, the door was shut.' Mrs. Fyne lowered and 
raised her head slowly. 

"I did not ask her for details. Of one thing I am 
certain and that is that Mrs. Fyne did not go out to 
the musical function that afternoon. She was no doubt 
considerably annoyed at missing the privilege of hearing 
privately an interesting young pianist (a girl) who, since, 
has become one of the recognized performers?. Mrs. 
Fyne did not dare leave her house. As to the feelings 
of little Fyne when he came home from the office, via 
his club, just half an hour before dinner, I have no in- 
formation. But I venture to affirm that in the main 
they were kindly, though it is quite possible that in 
the first moment of surprise he had to keep down a 
swear-word or two. 

"The long and the short of it all is that next day the 
Fynes made up their minds to take into their confidence 

FLORA 179 

a certain wealthy old lady. With certain old ladies the 
passing years bring back a sort of mellowed youthful- 
ness of feeling, an optimistic outlook, liking for novelty, 
readiness for experiment. The old lady was very much 
interested: 'Do let me see the poor thing!' She was 
accordingly allowed to see Flora de Barral in Mrs. 
Fyne's drawing-room on a day when there was no one 
else there, and she preached to her with charming, sym- 
pathetic authority: 'The only way to deal with our 
troubles, my dear child, is to forget them. You must 
forget yours. It's very simple. Look at me. I al- 
ways forget mine. At your age one ought to be cheer- 

"Later on when left alone with Mrs. Fyne she said 
to that lady: 'I do hope the child will manage to be cheer- 
ful. I can't have sad faces near me. At my age one 
needs cheerful companions. ' 

"And in this hope she carried off Flora de Barral to 
Bournemouth for the winter months in the quality of 
reader and companion. She had said to her with kindly 
jocularity: 'We shall have a good time together. I 
am not a grumpy old woman.' But on their return 
to London she sought Mrs. Fyne at once. She had 
discovered that Flora was not naturally cheerful. When 
she made efforts to be it was still worse. The old lady 
couldn't stand the strain of that. And then, to have 
the whole thing out, she could not bear to have for a 
companion any one who did not love her. She was 
certain that Flora did not love her. Why? She 
couldn't say. Moreover, she had caught the girl look- 
ing at her in a peculiar way at times. Oh no! — it was 
not an evil look — it was an unusual expression which one 
could not understand. And when one remembered 
that her father was in prison, shut up together with a 
lot of criminals and so on — it made one uncomfortable. 


If the child had only tried to forget her troubles! But 
she obviously was incapable or unwilling to do so. And 
that was somewhat perverse — wasn't it? Upon the 
whole, she thought it would be better perhaps 

"Mrs. Fyne assented hurriedly to the unspoken con- 
clusion : 

"'Oh certainly! Certainly,' wondering to herself 
what was to be done with Flora next; but she was not 
very much surprised at the change in the old lady's 
view of Flora de Barral. She almost understood it. 

"What came next was a German family, the conti- 
nental acquaintances of the wife of one of Fyne's col- 
leagues in the Home Office. Flora of the enigmatical 
glances was dispatched to them without much reflection. 
As it was not considered absolutely necessary to take 
them into full confidence, they neither expected the 
girl to be specially cheerful nor were they discomposed 
unduly by the indescribable quality of her glances. 
The German woman was quite ordinary; there were 
two boys to look after; they were ordinary, too, I pre- 
sume; and Flora, I understand, was very attentive to 
them. If she taught them anything it must have been 
by inspiration alone, for she certainly knew nothing 
of teaching. But it was mostly 'conversation' which 
was demanded from her. Flora de Barral conversing 
with two small German boys, regularly, industriously, 
conscientiously in order to keep herself alive in the 
world which held for her the past we know and the 
future of an even more undesirable quality — seems to 
me a very fantastic combination. But I believe it 
was not so bad. She was being, she wrote, mercifully 
drugged by her task. She had learned to 'converse' 
all day long, mechanically, absently, as if in a trance. 
An uneasy trance it must have been! Her worst 
moments were when off duty — alone in the evening, shut 

FLORA 181 

up in her own little room, her dulled thoughts waking 
up slowly till she started into the full consciousness of 
her position, like a person waking up in contact with 
something venomous — a snake, for instance — experi- 
encing a mad impulse to fling the thing away and run 
off screaming to hide somewhere. 

"At this period of her existence Flora de Barral used 
to write to Mrs. Fyne, not regularly but fairly often. I 
don't know how long she would have gone on 'con- 
versing ' and, incidentally, helping to supervise the beau- 
tifully stocked linen closets of that well-to-do German 
household, if the man of it had not developed in the 
intervals of his avocations (he was a merchant and a 
thoroughly domesticated character) a psychological 
resemblance to the Bournemouth old lady. It ap- 
peared that he, too, wanted to be loved. 

"He wns Act, however, of a conquering tempera- 
ment — a kiss-snatching, door-bursting type of liber- 
tine. In the very act of straying from the path of 
virtue he remained a respectable merchant. It would 
have been perhaps better for Flora if he had been a 
mere brute. But he set about his sinister enterprise 
in a sentimental, cautious, almost paternal manner; and 
thought he would be safe with a pretty orphan. The 
girl for all her experience was still too innocent, and 
indeed not yet sufficiently aware of herself as a woman, 
to mistrust these masked approaches. She did not 
see them, in fact. She thought him sympathetic — ■ 
the first expressively sympathetic person she had ever 
met. She was so innocent that she could not under- 
stand the fury of the German woman. For, as you 
may imagine, the wifely penetration was not to be de- 
ceived for any great length of time — the more so that 
the wife was older than the husband. The man with 
the peculiar cowardice of respectability Dever said a 


word in Flora's defence. He stood by and heard hei 
reviled in the most abusive terms, only nodding and 
frowning vaguely from time to time. It will give you 
the idea of the girl's innocence when I say that at first 
she actually thought this storm of indignant reproaches 
was caused by the discovery of her real name and her 
relation to a convict. She had been sent out under an 
assumed name — a highly recommended orphan of 
honourable parentage. Her distress, her burning 
cheeks, her endeavours to express her regret for this 
deception were taken for a confession of guilt. 'You 
attempted to bring dishonour to my home, ' the German 
woman screamed at her. 

"Here's a misunderstanding for you! Flora de 
Barral, who felt the shame but did not believe in the 
guilt of her father, retorted fiercely, 'Nevertheless I 
am as honourable as you are.' And then the Germar 
woman nearly went into a fit from rage. 'I shall have 
you thrown out into the street.' 

" Flora was not exactly thrown out into the street, I 
believe, but she was bundled bag and baggage on board 
a steamer for London. Did I tell you these people 
lived in Hamburg? Well yes — sent to the docks late 
on a rainy winter evening in charge of some sneering 
lackey or other who behaved to her insolently and left 
her on deck burning with indignation, her hair half 
down, shaking with excitement, and truth to say 
scared as near as possible into hysterics. If it had not 
been for the stewardess who, without asking questions, 
good soul, took charge of her quietly in the ladies' saloon 
(luckily it was empty) it is by no means certain she 
would ever have reached England. I can't tell if a 
straw ever saved a drowning man, but I know that a 
mere glance is enough to make despair pause. For in 
truth we who are creatures of impulse are not creature.' 

FLORA 183 

of despair. Suicide, I suspect, is very often the out- 
come of mere mental weariness — not an act of savage 
energy but the final symptom of complete collapse. 
The quiet, matter-of-fact attentions of a ship's steward- 
ess, who did not seem aware of other human agonies 
than seasickness, who talked of the probable weather 
of the passage — it would be a rough night, she thought 
— and who insisted in a professionally busy manner, 
'Let me make you comfortable down below at once, 
miss,' as though she were thinking of nothing else but 
her tip — was enough to dissipate the shades of death 
gathering round the mortal weariness of bewildered 
thinking which makes the idea of non-existence welcome 
so often to the young. Flora de Barral did lie down, and 
it may be presumed she slept. At any rate she sur* 
vived the voyage across the North Sea and told Mrs. 
Fyne all about it, concealing nothing and receiving no 
rebuke — for Mrs. Fyne's opinions had a large freedom 
in their pedantry. She held, I suppose, that a woman 
holds an absolute right — or possesses a perfect excuse — ■ 
to escape in her own way from a man-mismanaged 

"What is to be noted is that even in London, having 
had time to take a reflective view, poor Flora was far 
from being certain as to the true inwardness of her vio- 
lent dismissal. She felt the humiliation of it with an 
almost maddened resentment. 

" 'And did you enlighten her on the point? ' I ventured 
to ask. 

"Mrs. Fyne moved her shoulders with a philosophical 
acceptance of all the necessities which ought not to be. 
Something had to be said, she murmured. She had 
told the girl enough to make her come to the right con- 
clusion by herself. 


"'And she did?' 

" 'Yes. Of course. She isn't a goose, ' retorted Mrs. 
Fyne tartly. 

" ' Then her education is completed, ' I remarked with 
some bitterness. 'Don't you think she ought to be 
given a chance?' 

"Mrs. Fyne understood my meaning. 

" 'Not this one, ' she snapped in a quite feminine way. 
'It's all very well for you to plead, but I ' 

" ' I do not plead. I simply asked. It seemed natural 
to ask what you thought. ' 

" 'It's what I feel that matters. And I can't help my 
feelings. You may guess,' she added in a softer tone, 
'that my feelings are mostly concerned with my 
brother. We were very fond of each other. The 
difference of our ages was not very great. I suppose 
you know he is a little younger than I am. He was a 
sensitive boy. . He had the habit of brooding. It is 
no use concealing from you that neither of us was 
happy at home. You have heard, no doubt. . . . 
Yes? Well, I was made still more unhappy and hurt— 
I don't mind telling you that. He made his way to 
some distant relations of our mother's people who I 
believe were not known to my father at all. I don't 
wish to judge their action.' 

"I interrupted Mrs. Fyne here. I had heard. Fyne 
was not very communicative in general but he was 
proud of his father-in-law — 'Carleon Anthony, the 
poet, you know.' Proud of his celebrity without ap- 
proving of his character. It was on that account, I 
strongly suspect, that he seized with avidity upon the 
theory of poetical genius being allied to madness, which 
he got hold of in some idiotic book everybody was 
reading a few years ago. It struck him as being truth 
itself — illuminating like the sun. He adopted it de- 

FLORA 185 

voutly. He bored me with it sometimes. Once, just 
to shut him up, I asked quietly if this theory which he 
regarded as so incontrovertible did not cause him some 
uneasiness about his wife and the dear girls? He trans- 
fixed me with a pitying stare and requested me in his 
deep solemn voice to remember the 'well-established 
fact' that genius was not transmissible. 

"I said only 'Oh! Isn't it?' and he thought he had 
silenced me by an unanswerable argument. But he 
continued to talk of his glorious father-in-law, and it 
was in the course of that conversation that he told me 
how, when the Liverpool relations of the poet's late 
wife naturally addressed themselves to him in consider- 
able concern, suggesting a friendly consultation as to 
the boy's future, the incensed (but always refined) 
poet wrote in answer a letter of mere polished badinage 
which offended mortally the Liverpool people. This 
witty outbreak of what was in fact mortification and 
rage appeared to them so heartless that they simply 
kept the boy. They let him go to sea not because he 
was in their way but because he begged hard to be 
allowed to go. 

" 'Oh! You do know, ' said Mrs. Fyne after a pause. 
'Well — I felt myself very much abandoned. Then 
his choice of life — so extraordinary, so unfortunate, I 
may say. I was very much grieved. I should have 
liked him to have been distinguished — or at any rate 
to remain in the social sphere where we could have had 
common interests, acquaintances, thoughts. Don't 
think that I am estranged from him. But the precise 
truth is that I do not know him. I was most painfully 
affected when he was here by the difficulty of finding 
a single topic we could discuss together.' 

"While Mrs. Fyne was talking of her brother I let 
my thoughts wander out of the room to little Fyne who 


by leaving me alone with his wife had, so to speak, 
entrusted his domestic peace to my honour. 

"'Well, then, Mrs. Fyne, does it not strike you that 
it would be reasonable under the circumstances to let 
your brother take care of himself?' 

'"And suppose I have grounds to think that he can't 
take care of himself in a given instance?' She hesi- 
tated in a funny, bashful manner which aroused my 
interest. Then : ' Sailors I believe are very susceptible, ' 
she added with forced assurance. 

"I burst into a laugh which only increased the cold- 
ness of her observing stare. 

"'They are. Immensely! Hopelessly! My dear 
Mrs. Fyne, you had better give it up ! It only makes 
your husband miserable. ' 

" 'And I am quite miserable too. It is really our first 
difference. . . . ' 

"'Regarding Miss de Barral?' I asked. 

" 'Regarding everything. It's really intolerable that 
this girl should be the occasion. I think he really 
ought to give way. ' 

"She turned her chair round a little and picking up 
the book I had been reading in the morning began 
to turn the leaves absently. s 

"Her eyes being off me, I felt I could allow myself 
to leave the room. Its atmosphere had become hope- 
less for little Fyne's domestic peace. You may smile. 
But to the solemn all things are solemn. I had enough 
sagacity to understand that. 

" I slipped out into the porch. The dog was slumber- 
ing at Fyne's feet. The muscular little man leaning 
on his elbow and gazing over the fields presented a 
forlorn figure. He turned his head quickly, but seeing 
I was alone, relapsed into his moody contemplation 
of the green landscape. 

FLORA 187 

"I said loudly and distinctly: 'I've come out to smoke 
a cigarette,' and sat down near him on the little bench. 
Then lowering my voice: 'Tolerance is an extremely 
difficult virtue,' I said. 'More difficult for some than 
heroism. More difficult than compassion.' 

"I avoided looking at him. I knew well enough 
that he would not like this opening. General ideas 
were not to his taste. He mistrusted them. I lighted 
a cigarette, not that I wanted to smoke, but to give 
another moment to the consideration of the advice — 
the diplomatic advice I had made up my mind to bowl 
him over with. And I continued in subdued tones: 

'"I have been led to make these remarks by what I 
have discovered since you left Us. I suspected from 
the first. And now I am certain. What your wife 
cannot tolerate in this affair is Miss de Barral being 
what she is.' 

"He made a movement, but I kept my eyes away 
from him and went on steadily. 'That is — her being 
a woman. I have some idea of Mrs. Fyne's mental 
attitude towards society with its injustices, with its 
atrocious or ridiculous conventions. As against them 
there is no audacity of action your wife's mind refuses 
to sanction. The doctrine which I imagine she stuffs 
into the pretty heads of your girl-guests is almost venge- 
ful. A sort of moral fire-and-sword doctrine. How 
far the lesson is wise is not for me to say. I don't 
permit myself to judge. I seem to see her very de- 
lightful disciples singeing themselves with the torches, 
and cutting their fingers with the swords of Mrs. Fyne's 

'"My wife holds her opinions very seriously,' mur- 
mured Fyne suddenly. 

'"Yes. No doubt,' I assented in a low voice as be- 
fore. 'But it is a mere intellectual exercise. What I 


see is that in dealing with reality Mrs. Fyne ceases to 
be tolerant. In other words, that she can't forgive 
Miss de Barral for being a woman and behaving like a 
woman. And yet this is not only reasonable and natu- 
ral, but it is her only chance. A woman against the 
world has no resources but in herself. Her only means 
of action is to be what she is. You understand what 
I mean.' 

"Fyne mumbled between his teeth that he under- 
stood. But he did not seem interested. What he 
expected of me was to extricate him from a difficult 
situation. I don't know how far credible this may 
sound, to less solemn married couples, but to remain at 
variance with his wife seemed to him a considerable 
incident. Almost a disaster. 

'"It looks as though I didn't care what happened to 
her brother,' he said. 'And after all if anything. . . .' 

"I became a little impatient but without raising my 
tone: 'What thing?' I asked. 'The liability to get 
penal servitude is so far like genius that it isn't heredi- 
tary. And what else can be objected to the girl? All 
the energy of her deeper feelings, which she would 
use up vainly in the danger and fatigue of a struggle 
with society, may be turned into devoted attachment 
to the man who offers her a way of escape from what 
can be only a life of moral anguish. I don't mention 
the physical difficulties.' 

"Glancing at Fyne out of the corner of one eye I 
discovered that he was attentive. He made the re- 
mark that I should have said all this to his wife. It 
was a sensible enough remark. But I had given Mrs. 
Fyne up. I asked him if his impression was that his 
wife meant to entrust him with a, letter for her brother. 

"No. He didn't think so. There were certain 
reasons which made Mrs. Fyne unwilling to commit 

FLORA 189 

her arguments to paper. Fyne was to be primed with 
them. But he had no doubt that if he persisted in 
his refusal she would make up her mind to write. 

"She does not wish me to go unless with a full con- 
viction that she is right,' said Fyne solemnly. 

"She's very exacting,' I commented. And then I 
reflected that she was used to it. 'Would nothing 
else do for once? ' 

"You don't mean that I should give way — do you?' 
asked Fyne in a whisper of alarmed suspicion. 

"As this was exactly what I meant, I let his fright 
sink into him. He fidgeted. If the word may be 
used of so solemn a personage, he wriggled. And when 
the horrid suspicion had descended into his very heels, 
so to speak, he became very still. He sat gazing 
stonily into space bounded by the yellow, burnt-up 
slopes of the rising ground a couple of miles away. 
The face of the down showed the white scar of the 
quarry where not more than sixteen hours before Fyne 
and I had been groping in the dark with horrible ap- 
prehension of finding under our hands the shattered 
body of a girl. For myself I had in addition the mem- 
ory of my meeting with her. She, was certainly walk- 
ing very near the edge — courting a sinister solution. 
But, now having by the most unexpected chance come 
upon a man, she had found another way to escape from 
the world. Such world as was open to her — without 
shelter, without bread, without honour. The best she 
could have found in it would have been a precarious dole 
of pity diminishing as her years increased. The appeal 
of the abandoned child Flora to the sympathies of the 
Fynes had been irresistible. But now she had become 
a woman, and Mrs. Fyne was presenting an implacable 
front to a particularly feminine transaction. I may say 
triumphantly feminine. It is true that Mrs. Fyne did 


not want women to be women. Her theory was that 
they should turn themselves into unscrupulous sexless 
nuisances. An offended theorist dwelt in her bosom 
somewhere. In what way she expected Flora de Barral 
to set about saving herself from a most miserable ex- 
istence I can't conceive; but I verily believe that she 
would have found it easier to forgive the girl an actual 
crime; say the rifling of the Bournemouth old lady's 
desk, for instance. And then — for Mrs. Fyne was very 
much of a woman herself — her sense of proprietorship 
was very strong within her; and though she had not 
much use for her brother, yet she did not like to see 
him annexed by another woman. By a chit of a girl. 
And such a girl, too. Nothing is truer than that, in 
this world, the luckless have no right to their opportuni- 
ties — as if misfortune were a legal disqualification. 
Fyne's sentiments (as they naturally would be in a 
man) had more stability. A good deal of his sympa- 
thy survived. Indeed I heard him murmur ' Ghastly 
nuisance,' but I knew it was of the integrity of his 
domestic accord that he was thinking. With my eyes 
on the dog lying curled up in sleep in the middle of the 
porch I suggested jn a subdued impersonal tone: 
'Yes. Why not let yourself be persuaded?' 

"I never saw little Fyne less solemn. He hissed 
through his teeth in unexpectedly figurative style 
that it would take a lot to persuade him to 'push under 
the head of a poor devil of a girl quite sufficiently 
plucky' — and snorted. He was still gazing at the dis- 
tant quarry, and I think he was affected by that sight. 
I assured him that I was far from advising him to do 
anything so cruel. I am convinced he had always 
doubted the soundness of my principles, because he 
turned on me swiftly as though he had been on the 
watch for a lapse from the straight path. 

FLORA 191 

Then what do you mean ? That I should pretend ! ' 

'"No! What nonsense! It would be immoral. I 
may however tell you that if I had to make a choice I 
would rather do something immoral than something 
cruel. What I meant was that, not believing in the 
efficacy of the interference, the whole question is re- 
duced to your consenting to do what your wife wishes 
you to do. That would be acting like a gentleman, 
surely. And acting unselfishly too, because I can very 
well understand how distasteful it may be to you. 
Generally speaking, an unselfish action is a moral 
action. I'll tell you what. I'll go with you. ' 

"He turned around and stared at me with surprise 
and suspicion. 'You would go with me?' he re- 

'"You don't understand,' I said, amused at the in- 
credulous disgust of his tone. 'I must run up to town,' 
to-morrow morning. Let us go together. You have a 
set of travelling chessmen.' 

"His physiognomy, contracted by a variety of emo- 
tions, relaxed to a certain extent at the idea of a game. 
I told him that as I had business at the Docks he should 
have my company to the very ship. 

'"We shall beguile the way to the wilds of the East 
by improving conversation, ' I encouraged him. 

'"My brother-in-law is staying at an hotel — the 
Eastern Hotel,' he said, becoming sombre again. 'I 
haven't the slightest idea where it is. ' 

" 'I know the place. I shall leave you at the door with 
the comfortable conviction that you are doing what's 
right since it pleases a lady and cannot do any harm 
to anybody whatever.' 

* ' ' You think so ? No harm to anybody ? ' he repeated 

"'I assure you it's not the slightest use,' I said with 


all possible emphasis which seemed only to increase the 
solemn discontent of his expression. 

" 'But in order that my going should be a perfectly 
candid proceeding I must first convince my wife that 
it isn't the slightest use,' he objected portentously. 

" 'Oh, you casuist! ' I said. And I said nothing more 
because at that moment Mrs. Fyne stepped out into 
the porch. We rose together at her appearance. Her 
clear, colourless, unflinching glance enveloped us both 
critically. I sustained the chill smilingly, but Fyne 
stooped at once to release the dog. He was some time 
about it; then simultaneously with his recovery of up- 
right position the animal passed at one bound from pro- 
foundest slumber into most tumultuous activity. En- 
veloped in the tornado of his inane scurryings and bark- 
ings I took Mrs. Fyne's hand extended to me woodenly 
and bowed over it with deference She walked down 
the path without a word; Fyne had preceded her and 
was waiting by the open gate. They passed out and 
walked up the road surrounded by a low cloud of dust 
raised by the dog gyrating madly about their two 
figures progressing side by side with rectitude and pro- 
priety, and (I don't know why) looking to me as if 
they had annexed the whole cOuntry-side. Perhaps 
it was that they had impressed me somehow with the 
sense of their superiority. What superiority? Per- 
haps it consisted just in their limitations. It was obvi- 
ous that neither of them had carried away a high opin- 
ion of me. But what affected me most was the indiffer- 
ence of the Fyne dog. He used to precipitate himself 
at full speed and with a frightful final upward spring 
upon my waistcoat, at least once at each of our meetings. 
He had neglected that ceremony this time notwithstand- 
ing my correct and even conventional conduct in offer- 
ing him a cake; it seemed to me symbolic of my final 

FLORA 193 

separation from the Fyne household. And I remem- 
bered against him how on a certain day he had aban- 
doned poor Flora de Barral — who was morbidly sensi- 

"I sat down in the porch and, maybe inspired by 
secret antagonism to the Fynes, I said to myself de- 
liberately that Captain Anthony must be a fine fellow. 
Yet on the facts as I knew them he might have been a 
dangerous trifler or a downright scoundrel. He had 
made a miserable, hopeless girl follow him clandestinely 
to London. It is true that the girl had written since, 
only Mrs. Fyne had been remarkably vague as to the 
contents. They we$e unsatisfactory. They did not 
positively announce imminent nuptials as far as I could 
make it out from her rather mysterious hints. But 
then her inexperience might have led her astray. There 
was no fathoming the innocence of a woman like Mrs. 
Fyne who, venturing as far as possible in theory, would 
know nothing of the real aspect of things. It would 
have been comic if she were making all this fuss for 
nothing. But I rejected this suspicion for the honour 
of human nature. 

"I imagined to myself Captain Anthony as simple 
and romantic. It was much more pleasant. Genius 
is not hereditary but temperament may be. And he 
was the son of a poet with an admirable gift of individ- 
ualizing, of etherealizing the common-place; of making 
touching, delicate, fascinating the most hopeless con- 
ventions of the so-called, refined existence. 

"What I could not understand was Mrs. Fyne's 
dog-in-the-manger attitude. Sentimentally she needed 
that brother of hers so little! What could it matter 
to her one way or another — setting aside common 
humanity which would suggest at least a neutral at- 
titude? Unless indeed it was the blind working of the 


law that in our world of chances the luckless must be 
put in the wrong somehow. 

"And musing thus on the general inclination of our 
instincts towards injustice I met unexpectedly, at the 
turn of the road, as it were, a shape of duplicity. It 
might have been unconscious on Mrs. Fyne's part, 
but her leading idea appeared to me to be not to keep, 
not to preserve her brother, but to get rid of him 
definitely. She did not hope to stop anything. She 
had too much sense for that. Almost any one out of an 
idiot asylum would have had enough sense for that. 
She wanted the protest to be made, emphatically, 
with Fyne's fullest concurrence in order to make all 
intercourse for the future impossible. Such an action 
would estrange the pair for ever from the Fynes! She 
understood her brother and the girl too. Happy to- 
gether, they would never forgive that outspoken hos- 
tility — and should the marriage turn out badly. . . . 
Well, it would be just the same. Neither of them would 
be likely to bring their troubles to such a good prophet 
of evil. 

"Yes. That must have been her motive. The 
inspiration of a possibly unconscious Machiavellism! 
Either she was afraid of having a sister-in-law to look 
after during the husband's long absences; or dreaded 
the more or less distant eventuality of her brother being 
persuaded to leave the sea, the friendly refuge of his 
unhappy youth, and to settle on shore, bringing to her 
very door this undesirable, this embarrassing connex- 
ion. She wanted to be done with it — maybe simply 
from the fatigue of continuous effort in good or evil 
which, in the bulk of common mortals, accounts for 
so many surprising inconsistencies of conduct. 

"I don't know that I had classed Mrs. Fyne, in my 
thoughts, amongst common mdrtals. She was too 

FLORA 195 

quietly sure of herself for that. But little Fyne, as I 
spied him next morning (out of the carriage window) 
speeding along the platform, looked very much like a 
common, flustered mortal who has made a very near 
thing of catching his train: the staring wild eyes, the 
tense and excited face, the distracted gait, all the com- 
mon symptoms were there, rendered more impressive 
by his native solemnity which flapped about him like a 
disordered garment. Had he — I asked myself with 
interest — resisted his wife to the very last minute and 
then bolted up the road from the last conclusive argu- 
ment, as though it had been a loaded gun suddenly 
produced? I opened the carriage door, and a vigorous 
porter shoved him in from behind just as the end of the 
rustic platform went gliding swiftly from under his feet. 
He was very much out of breath, and I waited with some 
curiosity for the moment he would recover his power 
of speech. That moment came. He said 'Good 
morning,' with a slight gasp, remained very still for 
another minute and then pulled out of his pocket the 
travelling chessboard, and holding it in his hand, di- 
rected at me a glance of inquiry. 
"'Yes. Certainly,' I said, very much disappointed, 



"Fyne was not willing to talk; but as I had been al- 
ready let into the secret, the fair-minded little man 
recognized that I had some right to information if I 
insisted on it. And I did insist, after the third game. 
We were yet some way from the end of our journey. 

"'Oh, if you want to know,' was his somewhat im- 
patient opening. And then he talked rather vohibly. 
First of all his wife had not given him to read the letter 
received from Flora (I had suspected him of having it 
in his pocket), but had told him all about the contents. 
It was not at all what it should have been even if the 
girl had wished to affirm her right to disregard the feel- 
ings of all the world. Her own had been trampled in 
the dirt out of all shape. Extraordinary thing to say — 
I would admit, for a young girl of her age. The whole 
tone of that letter was wrong, quite wrong. It was cer- 
tainly notthe product of a — say, of a well-balanced mind. 

" 'If she were given some sort of footing in this world,' 
I said, 'if only no bigger than the palm of my hand, 
she would probably learn to keep a better balance.' 

"Fyne ignored this little remark. His wife, he said, 
was not the sort of person to be addressed mockingly 
on a serious subject. There was an unpleasant strain 
of levity in that letter, extending even to the references 
to Captain Anthony himself . Such a disposition was 
enough, his wife had pointed out to him, to alarm one 
for the future, had all the circumstances of that pre- 



posterous project been as satisfactory as in fact they 
were not. Other parts of the letter seemed to have a 
challenging tone — as if daring them (the Fynes) to ap- 
prove her conduct. And at the same time implying 
that she did not care, that it was for their own sakes 
that she hoped they would 'go against the world — • 
the horrid world which had crushed poor papa.' 

"Fyne called upon me to admit that this was pretty 
cool — considering. And there was another thing, too. 
It seems that for the last six months (she had been as- 
sisting two ladies who kept a kindergarten school in 
Bwyswater — a mere pittance), Flora had insisted on 
devoting all her spare time to the study of the trial. 
She had been looking up files of old newspapers, and 
working herself up into a state of indignation with what 
she called the injustice and the hypocrisy of the prosecu- 
tion. Her father, Fyne reminded me, had made some 
palpable hits in his answers in Court, and she had 
fastened on them triumphantly. She had reached 
the conclusion of her father's innocence, and had been 
brooding over it. Mrs. Fyne had pointed out to him 
the danger of this. 

"The train ran into the station and Fyne, jumping 
out directly it came to a standstill, seemed "glad to 
cut short the conversation. We walked in silence a 
little way, boarded a bus, then walked again. I don't 
suppose that since the days of his childhood, when 
surely he was taken to see the Tower, he had been 
once east of Temple Bar. He looked about him sul- 
lenly; and when I pointed out in the distance the 
rounded front of the Eastern Hotel at the bifurcation 
of two very broad, mean, shabby thoroughfares, rising 
like a grey stucco tower above the lowly roofs of the 
dirty-yellow, two-storey houses, he only grunted dis- 


"'I wouldn't lay too much stress on what you have 
been telling me,' I observed quietly as we approached 
that unattractive building. 'No man will believe a 
girl who has just accepted his suit to be not well bal- 
anced, — you know.' 

'"Oh! Accepted his suit,' muttered Fyne, who 
seemed to have been very thoroughly convinced in- 
deed. 'It may have been the other way about.' And 
then he added: 'I am going through with it.' 

"I said that this was very praiseworthy but that 
a certain moderation of statement . . . He waved 
his hand at me and mended his pace. I guessed that 
he was anxious to get his mission over as quickly as 
possible. He barely gave himself time to shake hands 
with me and made a rush at the narrow glass door with 
the words Hotel Entrance on it. It swung to behind his 
back with no more noise than the snap of a toothless jaw. 

"The absurd temptation to remain and see what 
would come of it got over my better judgment. I hung 
about irresolute, wondering how long an embassy of 
that sort would take, and whether Fyne on coming out 
would consent to be communicative. I feared he would 
be shocked at finding me there, would consider my con- 
duct incorrect, conceivably treat me with contempt. 
I walked off a few paces. Perhaps it would be possible 
to read something on Fyne's face as he came out; and, 
if necessary, I could always eclipse myself discreetly 
through the door of one of the bars. The ground 
floor of the Eastern Hotel was an unabashed pub, with 
plate-glass fronts, a display of brass rails, and divided 
into many compartments each having its own entrance. 

"But of course all this was silly. The marriage, the 
love, the affairs of Captain Anthony were none of my 
business. I was on the point of moving down the street 
for good when my attention was attracted by a girl 


approaching the hotel entrance from the west. She was 1 
dressed very modestly in black. It was the white straw 
hat of a good form and trimmed with a bunch of pale 
roses which had caught my eye. The whole figure 
seemed familiar. Of course! Flora de Barral. She 
was making for the hotel, she was going in. And Fyne 
was with Captain Anthony! To meet him would not 
be pleasant for her. I wished to save her from the 
awkwardness, and as I hesitated what to do she looked 
up and our eyes happened to meet just as she was turn- 
ing off the pavement into the hotel doorway. In- 
stinctively I extended my arm. It was enough to 
make her stop. I suppose she had some faint notion 
that she had seen me before somewhere. She walked 
slowly forward, prudent and attentive, watching my 
faint smile. 

" 'Excuse me,' I said directly she had approached me 
near enough. 'Perhaps you would like to know that Mr, 
Fyne is upstairs with Captain Anthony at this moment.' 

"She uttered a faint 'Ah! Mr. Fyne!' I could read in 
her eyes that she had recognized me now. Her serious 
expression extinguished the imbecile grin of which I 
was conscious. I raised my hat. She responded with 
a slow inclination of the head while her luminous, mis- 
trustful, maiden's glance seemed to whisper, 'What is 
this one doing here?' 

'"I came up to town with Fyne this morning,' I said 
in a businesslike tone. 'I have to see a friend in East 
India Dock. Fyne and I parted this moment at the 
door here. . . .' The girl regarded me with darken- 
ing eyes . . . 'Mrs. Fyne did not come with her 
husband,' I went on, then hesitated before that white 
face so still in the pearly shadow thrown down by the 
hat-brim. 'But she sent him,' I murmured by way 
of warning. 


Her eyelids fluttered slowly over the fixed stare. I 
imagine she was not much disconcerted by this develop- 
ment. ' I live a long way from here, ' she whispered. 

"I said perfunctorily, 'Do you?' And we remained 
gazing at each other. The uniform paleness of her com- 
plexion was not that of an anaemic girl. It had a trans- 
parent vitality and at that particular moment the faint- 
est possible rosy tinge, the merest suspicion of colour; 
an equivalent, I suppose, in any other girl to blushing 
like a peony, while she told me that Captain Anthony 
had arranged to show her the ship that morning. 

" It was easy to understand that she did not want to 
meet Fyne. And when I mentioned in a discreet mur- 
mur that he had come because of her letter she glanced 
at the hotel door quickly, and moved off a few steps 
to a position where she could watch the entrance with- 
out being seen. I followed her. At the junction of 
the two thoroughfares she stopped in the thin traffic 
of the broad pavement and turned to me with an air 
of challenge. 'And so you know.' 

"I told her that I had not seen the letter. I had only 
heard of it. She was a little impatient. 'I mean all 
about me.' 

"Yes. I knew all about her. The distress of Mr. 
and Mrs. Fyne — especially of Mrs. Fyne — was so great 
that they would have shared it with anybody almost — 
not belonging to their circle of friends. I happened 
to be at hand — that was all. 

'"You understand that I am not their friend. I am 
only a holiday acquaintance.' 

'"She was not very much upset?' queried Flora de 
Barral, meaning, of course, Mrs. Fyne. And I ad- 
mitted that she was less so than her husband — and 
even less than myself. Mrs. Fyne was a very self- 
possessed person which nothing could startle out of her 


extreme theoretical position. She did not seem startled 
when Fyne and I proposed going to the quarry. 

" ' You put that notion into their heads,' the girl said. 

"I advanced that the notion was in their heads al- 
ready. But it was much more vividly in my head since 
I had seen her up there with my own eyes, tempting 

• "She was looking at me with extreme attention, and 
murmured : 

"'Is that what you called it to them? Tempt- 
ing ... .' 

"'No. I told them that you were making up your 
mind and I came along just then. I told them that 
you were saved by me. My shout checked you . . .' 
She moved her head gently from right to left in nega- 
tion. . . . 'No? Well, have it your own way.' 

"I thought to myself: She has found another issue. 
She wants to forget now. And no wonder. She wants 
to persuade herself that she had never known such an 
ugly and poignant minute in her life. 'After all,' I 
conceded aloud, 'things are not always what they 

" Her little head with its deep blue eyes, eyes of ten- 
derness and anger under the black arch of fine eyebrows, 
was very still. The mouth looked very red in the white 
face peeping from under the veil, the little pointed 
chin had in its form something aggressive. Slight and 
even angular in her modest black dress she was an 
appealing and — yes — she was a desirable little figure. 

"Her lips moved very fast asking me: 

"'And they believed you at once?' 

"'Yes, they believed me at once. Mrs. Fyne's word 
to us was "Go!"' 

"A white gleam between the red lips was so short 
that I remained uncertain whether it was a smile or a 


ferocious baring of little even teeth. The rest of the 
face preserved its innocent, tense and enigmatical ex- 
pression. She spoke rapidly. 

"'No, it wasn't your shout. I had been there some 
time before you saw me. And I was not there to tempt 
Providence, as you call it. I went up there for — for 
what you thought I was going to do. Yes. I climbed 
two fences. I did not mean to leave anything to Provi- 
dence. There seem to be people for whom Providence 
can do nothing. I suppose you are shocked to hear 
me talk like that?' 

"I shook my head. I was not shocked. What had 
kept her back all that time, till I appeared on the scene 
below, she went on, was neither fear nor any other 
kind of hesitation. One reaches a point, she said with 
appalling youthful simplicity, where nothing that con- 
cerns one matters any longer. But something did keep 
her back. I should have never guessed what it was. 
She herself confessed that it seemed absurd to say. 
It was the Fyne dog. 

"Flora de Barral paused, looking at me with a pecu- 
liar expression and then went on. You see, she im- 
agined the dog had become extremely attached to her. 
She took it into her head that he might fall over or jump 
down after her. She tried to drive him away. She 
spoke sternly to him. It only made him more frisky. 
He barked and jumped about her skirt in his usual, 
idiotic, high spirits. He scampered away in circles 
between the pines charging upon her and leaping as 
high as her waist. She commanded, 'Go away. Go 
home.' She even picked up from the ground a bit of 
a broken branch and threw it at him. At this his de- 
light knew no bounds; his rushes became faster, his 
yapping louder; he seemed to be having the time of 
his life. She was convinced that the moment she threw 


herself down lie would spring over after her as if it were 
part of the game. She was vexed almost to tears. She 
was touched too. And when he stood still at some dis- 
tance as if suddenly rooted to the ground, wagging his 
tail slowly and watching her intensely with his shining 
eyes, another fear came to her. She imagined herself 
gone and the creature sitting on the brink, its head 
thrown up to the sky and howling for hours. This 
thought was not to be borne. Then my shout reached 
her ears. 

"She told me all this with simplicity. My voice had 
destroyed her poise — the suicide poise of her mind. 
Every act of ours, the most criminal, the most mad 
presupposes a balance of thought, feeling and will, like 
a correct attitude for an effective stroke in a game. 
And I had destroyed it. She was no longer in proper 
form for the act. She was not very much annoyed. 
Next day would do. She would have to slip away 
without attracting the notice of the dog. She thought 
of the necessity almost tenderly. She came down the 
path carrying her despair with lucid calmness. But, 
when she saw herself deserted by the dog, she had 
an impulse to turn round, go up again and be done 
with it. Not even that animal cared for her — in the 

" 'I really did think that he was attached to me. What 
did he want to pretend for, like this? I thought noth- 
ing could hurt me any more. Oh yes. I would have 
gone up, but I felt suddenly so tired. So tired. And 
then you were there. I didn't know what you would 
do. You might have tried to follow me and I don't 
think I could run — not up hill — not then.' 

"She had raised her white face a little, and it was 
queer to hear her say these things. At that time of the 
morning there are co mparative ly few people out in 


that part of the town. The broad interminable per- 
spective of the East India Dock Road, the great per- 
spective of drab brick walls, of grey pavement, of 
muddy roadway rumbling dismally with loaded carts 
and vans lost itself in the distance, imposing and shabby 
in its spacious meanness of aspect, in its immeasurable 
poverty of forms, of colouring, of life — under a harsh, 
unconcerned sky dried by the wind to a clear blue. 
It had been raining during the night. The sunshine 
itself seemed poor. From time to time a few bits of 
paper, a little dust and straw whirled past us on the 
broad, flat promontory of the pavement before the 
rounded front of the hotel. 

"Flora de Barral was silent for a while. I said: 
" 'And next day you thought better of it.' 
"Again she raised her eyes to mine with that peculiar 
expression of informed innocence; and again her white 
cheeks took on the faintest tinge of pink — the merest 
shadow of a blush. 

"'Next day,' she uttered distinctly, 'I didn't think. 
I remembered. That was enough. I remembered 
what I should never have forgotten. Never. And 
Captain Anthony arrived at the cottage in the evening.' 
"'Ah yes. Captain Anthony,' I murmured. And 
she repeated also in a murmur, 'Yes! Captain An- 
thony.' The faint flush of warm life left her face. I 
subdued my voice still more and not looking at her: 
'You found him sympathetic?' I ventured. 

"Her long dark lashes went down a little with an air 
of calculated discretion. At least so it seemed to me. 
And yet no one could say that I was mimical to that 
girl. But there you are! Explain it as you may, in 
this world the friendless, like the poor, are always a 
little suspect, as if honesty and delicacy were only pos- 
sible to the privileged few, 


"'Why do you ask?' she said after a time, raising her 
eyes suddenly to mine in an effect of candour which 
on the same principle (of the disinherited not being to 
be trusted) might have been judged equivocal. 

"'If you mean what right I have . . .' She moved 
slightly a hand in a worn brown glove as much as to 
say she could not question any one's right against such 
an outcast as herself. 

"I ought to have been moved perhaps; but I only 
noted the total absence of humility . . . . 'No right 
at all,' I continued, 'but just interest. Mrs. Fyne — ■ 
it's too difficult to explain how it came about — has 
talked to me of you — well — extensively.' 

"No doubt Mrs. Fyne had told me the truth, Flora 
said brusquely with an unexpected hoarseness of tone 
•This very dress she was wearing had been given hei" 
by Mrs. Fyne. Of course I looked at it. It could 
not have been a recent gift. Close-fitting and black, 
with heliotrope silk facings under a figured net, it 
looked far from new, just on this side of shabbiness; 
in fact, it accentuated the slightness of her figure, it 
went well in its suggestion of half mourning with the 
white face in which the unsmiling red lips alone seemed 
warm with the rich blood of life and passion. 

"Little Fyne was staying up there an unconscion- 
able time. Was he arguing, preaching, remonstrating? 
Had he discovered in himself a capacity and a taste 
for that sort of thing? Or was he perhaps, in an in- 
tense dislike for the job, beating about the bush and 
only puzzling Captain Anthony, the providential man, 
who, if he expected the girl to appear at any moment, 
must have been on tenterhooks all the time, and beside 
himself with impatience to see the back of his brother- 
in-law? How was it that he had not got rid of Fyne long 
before in any case? I don't mean by actually throwing 


him out of the window, but in some other resolute 

"Surely Fyne had not impressed him. That An- 
thony was an impressionable man I could not doubt. 
The presence of the girl there on the pavement before 
me proved this up to the hilt — and, well, yes, touchingly 

"It so happened that in their wanderings to and fro 
our glances met. There was something comic in the 
whole situation, in the poor girl and myself waiting 
together on the broad pavement at a corner public- 
house for the issue of Fyne's ridiculous mission. But 
the comic when it is human becomes quickly painful. 
Yes, .she was infinitely anxious. And I was asking 
myself whether this poignant tension of her suspense 
depended — to put it plainly — on hunger or love. 

"The answer would have been of some interest to 
Captain Anthony. For my part, in the presence of a 
young girl I always become convinced that the dreams 
of sentiment — like the consoling mysteries of Faith- 
are invincible; that it is never, never reason which gov- 
erns men and women. 

"Yet what sentiment could there have been on her 
part? I remembered her tone only a moment since 
when she said : ' That evening Captain Anthony arrived 
at the cottage.' And considering, too, what the arrival 
of Captain Anthony meant in this connection, I won- 
dered at the calmness with which she could mention 
that fact. He arrived at the cottage. In the evening. 
I knew that late train. He probably walked from the 
station. The evening would be well advanced. I 
could almost see a dark, indistinct figure opening the 
wicket gate of the garden. Where was she? Did she 
see him enter? Was she somewhere near by and did 
she hear without the slightest premonition his chance 


and fateful footsteps on the flagged path leading to the 
cottage door? In the shadow of the night made more 
cruelly sombre for her by the very shadow of death he 
must have appeared too strange, too remote, too un- 
known to impress himself on her thought as a living 
force — such a force as a man can bring to bear on a 
woman's destiny. 

"She glanced towards the hotel door again; I followed 
suit and then our eyes met once more, this time inten- 
tionally. A tentative, uncertain intimacy was spring- 
ing up between us two. She said simply: 'You are 
waiting for Mr. Fyne to come out; are you?' 

"I admitted to her that I was waiting to see Mr. Fyne 
come out. That was all. I had nothing to say to him. 

"'I have said yesterday all I had to say to him,' 
I added meaningly. 'I have said it to them both, in 
fact. I have also heard all they had to say.' 

"'About me?' she murmured. 

"'Yes. The conversation was about you.' 

"'I wonder if they told you everything.' 

"If she wondered I could do nothing else but wonder 
too. But I did not tell her that. I only smiled. The 
material point was that Captain Anthony should be 
told everything. But as to that I was very certain 
that the good sister would see to it. Was there any- 
thing more to disclose — some other misery, some other 
deception of which that girl had been a victim? It 
seemed hardly probable. It was not even easy to 
imagine. What struck me most was her — I suppose I 
must call it — composure. One could not tell whether 
she understood what she had done. One wondered. 
She was not so much unreadable as blank; and I did 
not know whether to admire her for it or dismiss her 
from my thoughts as a passive butt of ferocious mis- 


"Looking back at the occasion when we first got on 
speaking terms on the road by the quarry, I had to ad- 
mit that she presented some points of a problematic 
appearance. I don't know why I imagined Captain 
Anthony as the sort of man who would not be likely 
to take the initiative; not perhaps from indifference 
but from that peculiar timidity before women which 
often enough is found in conjunction with chivalrous 
instincts, with a great need for affection and great stabil- 
ity of feelings. Such men are easily moved. At the 
least encouragement they go forward with the eagerness, 
with the recklessness of starvation. This accounted 
for the suddenness of the affair. No ! With all her 
inexperience this girl could not have found any great 
difficulty in her conquering enterprise. She must have 
begun it. And yet there she was, patient, almost un- 
moved, almost pitiful, waiting outside like a beggar, 
without a right to anything but compassion, for a prom- 
ised dole. 

"Every moment people were passing close by us 
singly, in twos and threes; the inhabitants of that end 
of the town where life goes on unadorned by grace or 
splendour; they passed us in their shabby garments, 
with sallow faces, haggard, anxious or weary, or simply 
without expression, in an unsmiling sombre stream not 
made up of lives but of mere unconsidered existences 
whose joys, struggles, thoughts, sorrows and their 
very hopes were miserable, glamourless, and of no ac- 
count in the world. And when one thought of their 
reality to themselves one's heart became oppressed. 
But of all the individuals who passed by none appeared 
to me for the moment so pathetic in unconscious pa- 
tience as the girl standing before me; none more difficult 
to understand. It is perhaps because I was thinking 
of things which I could not ask her about. 


"In fact we had nothing to say to each other; but 
we two, strangers as we really were to each other, had 
dealt with the most intimate and final of subjects, the 
subject of death. It had created a sort of bond be- 
tween us. It made our silence weighty and uneasy. I 
ought to have left her there and then; but, as I think 
I've told you before, the fact of having shouted her 
away from the edge of a precipice seemed somehow to 
have engaged my responsibility as to this other leap. 
And so we had still an intimate subject between us to 
lend more weight and more uneasiness to our silence. 
The subject of marriage. I used the word not so much 
in reference to the ceremony itself (I had no doubt 
of this, Captain Anthony being a decent fellow) or in 
view of the social institution in general, as to which 
I have no opinion, but in regard to the human relation 
The first two views are not particularly interesting. 
The ceremony, I suppose, is adequate; the institution, 
I dare say, is useful or it would not have endured. But 
the human relation thus recognized is a mysterious 
thing in its origins, character and consequences. 
Unfortunately you can't buttonhole familiarly a young 
girl as you would a young fellow. I don't think that 
even another woman could really do it. She would 
not be trusted. There is not between women that 
fund of at least conditional loyalty which men may de- 
pend on in their dealings with each other. I believe 
that any woman would rather trust a man. The diffi- 
culty in such a delicate case was how to get on 

"So we held our peace in the odious uproar of that 
wide roadway thronged with heavy carts. Great 
vans carrying enormous piled-up loads advanced sway- 
ing like mountains. It was as if the whole world ex- 
isted only for selling and buying and those who had 


toothing to do with the movement of merchandise were 
of no account. 

'"You must be tired, ' I said. One had to say some- 
thing if only to assert oneself against that wearisome, 
passionless and crushing uproar. She raised her eyes 
fof a . moment. No, she was not. Not very. She 
had not walked all the way. She came by train as far 
as Whitechapel Station and had only walked from 

"She had had an ugly pilgrimage; but whether of 
love or necessity who could tell? And that precisely 
was what I should have liked to get at. This was not 
however a question to be asked point-blank, and I 
could not think of any effective circumlocution. It 
occurred to me too that she might conceivably know 
nothing of it herself — I mean by reflection. That 
young woman had been obviously considering death. 
She had gone the length of forming some conception 
of it. But as to its companion fatality — love, she, I 
was certain, had never reflected upon its meaning. 

"With that man in the hotel, whom I did not know, 
and this girl standing before me in the street I felt that 
it was an exceptional case. He had broken away from 
his surroundings; she stood outside the pale. One 
aspect of conventions which people who declaim against 
them lose sight of is that conventions make both joy 
and suffering easier to bear in a becoming manner. 
But those two were outside all conventions. They 
would be as untrammelled in a sense as the first man 
and the first woman. The trouble was that I could not 
imagine anything about Flora de Barral and the brother 
of Mrs. Pyne. Or if you like, I could imagine anything 
which comes practically to the same thing. Darkness 
and chaos are first cousins. I should have liked to ask 
the girl for a word which would give my imagination 


its line. But iiow was one to venture so far? I can 
be rough sometimes but I am not naturally impertinent. 
I would have liked to ask her for instance: 'Do you 
know what you have done with yourself?' A question 
like that. Anyhow it was time for one of us to say 
something. A question it must be. And the question 
I asked was: 'So he's going to show you the ship?' 

"She seemed glad I had spoken at last and glad of the 
opportunity to speak herself. 

'"Yes. He said he would: — this morning. Did you 
say you did not know Captain Anthony?' 

"No. I don't know him. Is he anything like his 

"She looked startled and murmured 'Sister!' in a 
puzzled tone which astonished me. 'Oh! Mrs. Fyne,' 
she exclaimed, recollecting herself, and avoiding my 
eyes while I looked at her curiously. 

"What an extraordinary detachment!- And all the 
time the stream of shabby people was hastening by us, 
with the continuous dreary shuffling of weary footsteps 
on the flagstones. The sunshine falling on the grime 
of surfaces, on the poverty of tones and forms seemed 
of an inferior quality, its joy faded, its brilliance tarn- 
ished and dusty. I had to raise my voice in the dull 
vibrating noise of the roadway. 

" ' You don't mean to say you have forgotten the con- 

"She cried readily enough: 'I wasn't thinking.' And 
then, while I wondered what could have been the images 
occupying her brain at this time, she asked me: 'You 
didn't see my letter to Mrs. Fyne — did you?' 

'"No. I didn't,' I shouted. Just then the racket was 
distracting, a pair-horse trolly lightly loaded with loose 
rods of iron passing slowly very near us. 'I wasn't 
trusted so far.' And remembering Mrs. Fyne's hints 


that the girl was unbalanced, I added: '"Was it an un- 
reserved confession you wrote?' 

"She did not answer me for a time, and as I waited I 
thought that there's nothing like a confession to make 
one look mad; and that of all confessions a" written one is 
the most detrimental all round. Never confess ! Never, 
never! An untimely joke is a source of bitter regret 
always. Sometimes it may ruin a man ; not because it is 
a joke, but because it is untimely. And a confession of 
whatever sort is always untimely. The one thing which 
makes it supportable for a while is curiosity. You smile? 
Ah, but it is so, or else people would be sent to the right- 
about at the second sentence. How many sympathetic 
souls can you reckon on in the world? One in ten, one 
in a hundred — in a thousand — in ten thousand? Ah! 
What a sell these confessions are! What a horrible sell! 
You seek sympathy, and all you get is the most evanes- 
cent sense of relief — if you get that much. For a con- 
fession, whatever it may be, stirs the secret depths of 
. the hearer's character. Often depths that he himself 
is but dimly aware of. And so the righteous triumph 
secretly, the lucky are amused, the strong are dis- 
gusted, the weak either upset or irritated with you 
according to the measure of their sincerity with them- 
selves. And all of them in their hearts brand you for 
either mad or impudent. ..." 

I had seldom seen Marlow so vehement, so pessimis- 
tic, so earnestly cynical before. I cut his declamation 
short by asking what answer Flora de Barral had given 
to his question. "Did the poor girl admit firing off her 
confidences at Mrs. Fyne — eight pages of close writing 
—that sort of thing?" 

Marlow shook his head. 

"She did not tell me. I accepted her silence as a 
jrind of answer, and remarked that it would have beea i 


better if she had simply announced the fact to Mrs r 
Fyne at the cottage. 'Why didn't you do it?' I asked 

"She said: 'I am not a very plucky girl.' She looked 
up at me and added meaningly: 'And you know it. And 
you know why.' 

"I must remark that she seemed to have become very 
subdued since our first meeting at the quarry. Almost 
a different person from the defiant, angry and despair- 
ing girl with quivering lips and resentful glances. 

"'I thought it was very sensible of you to get away 
from that sheer drop,' I said. 

"She looked up with something of that old expres- 

" ' That's not what I mean. I see you will have it that 
you saved my life. Nothing of the kind. I was con- 
cerned for that vile little beast of a dog. No ! It \y<*s 
the idea of — of doing away with myself which was 
cowardly. That's what I meant by saying I am not a 
very plucky girl.' 

" 'Oh ! ' I retorted airily. ' That little dog. He isn't 
really a bad little dog.' But she lowered her eyelids and 
went on: 

" ' I was so miserable that I could think only of myself. 
This was mean. It was cruel too. And besides I had not 
given it up — not then.' " 

Marlow changed his tone. 

"I don't know much of the psychology of self- 
destruction. It's a sort of subject one has few oppor- 
tunities to study closely. I knew a man once who came 
to my rooms one evening, and while smoking a cigar 
confessed to me moodily that he was trying to discover 
some graceful way of retiring out of existence. I didn't 
studv his case, but I had a glimpse of him the other day 


at a cricket match, with some women, having a good 
time. That seems a fairly reasonable attitude. Con- 
sidered as a sin, it is a case for repentance before the 
throne of a merciful God. But I imagine that Flora 
de Barral's religion under the care of the distinguished 
governess could have been nothing but outward for- 
mality. Remorse in the sense of gnawing shame and 
unavailing regret is only understandable to me when 
some wrong had been done to a fellow-creature. 

But why she, that girl who existed on sufferance, so 
to speak — why she should writhe inwardly with remorse 
because she had once thought of getting rid of a life 
which was nothing in every respect but a curse — that 
I could not understand. I thought it was very likely 
some obscure influence of common forms of speech, 
some traditional or inherited feeling — a vague notion 
that suicide is a legal crime; words of old moralists 
and preachers which remain in the air and help to form 
all the authorized moral conventions. Yes, I was sur- 
prised at her remorse. But lowering her glance unex- 
pectedly till her dark eyelashes seemed to rest against 
her white cheeks she presented a' perfectly demure as- 
pect. It was so attractive that I could not help a faint 
smile. That Flora de Barral should ever, in any as- 
pect, have the power to evoke a smile was the very 
last thing I should have believed. She went on after a 
slight hesitation: 

"One day I started for there, for that place.' 

"Look at the influence of a mere play of physiog- 
nomy! If you remember what we were talking about 
you will hardly believe that I caught myself grinning 
down at that demure little girl. I must say too that 
I felt more friendly to her at the moment than ever 

"'Oh, you did? To take that jump? You are a de- 


termined young person. Well, what happened that 

"An almost imperceptible alteration in her bearing; 
a slight droop of her head perhaps — a mere nothing — 
made her look more demure than ever. 

"I had left the cottage,' she began a little hurriedly. 
'I was walking along the road — you know, the road. I 
had made up my mind I was not coming back this 

"I won't deny that these words spoken from under 
the brim of her hat (oh yes, certainly, her head was 
down — she had put it down) gave me a thrill; for in- 
deed I had never doubted her sincerity. It could 
never have been a make-believe despair. 

"'Yes,' I whispered. 'You were going along the 

'"When . . . ' Again she hesitated with an effect 
of innocent shyness worlds asunder from tragic issues; 
then glided on . . . 'When suddenly Captain An- 
thony came through a gate out of a field.' 

"I coughed down the beginning of a most improper 
fit of laughter, and felt ashamed of myself. Her eyes 
raised for a moment seemed full of innocent suffering 
and unexpressed menace in the depths of the dilated 
pupils within the rings of sombre blue. It was — how 
shall I say it? — a night effect when you seem to see 
vague shapes and don't know what reality you may 
come upon at any time. Then she lowered her eyelids 
again, shutting all mysteriousness out of the situation 
except for the sobering memory of that glance, night- 
like in the sunshine, expressively still in the brutal 
unrest of the street. 

"'So Captain Anthony joined you — did he?' 

" 'He opened a field-gate and walked out on the road. 
He crossed to my side and went on with me. He had 


his pipe in his hand. He said: "Are you going far 
this morning?"' 

"These words (I was watching her white face as she 
spoke) gave me a slight shudder. She remained de- 
mure, almost prim. And I remarked: 

'"You had been talking together before, of course.' 

"'Not more than twenty words altogether since he 
arrived,' she declared without emphasis. 'That day 
he had said, "Good morning" to me when we met at 
breakfast two hours before. And I said good morning 
to him. I did not see him afterwards till he came out 
on the road.' 

"I thought to myself that this was not accidental. 
He had been observing her. I felt certain also that 
he had not been asking any questions of Mrs. Fyne. 

"'I wouldn't look at him,' said Flora de Barral. 'I 
had done with looking at people. He said to me: "My 
sister does not put herself out much for us. We had 
better keep each other company. I have read every 
book there is in that cottage." I walked on. He did 
not leave me. I thought he ought to. But he didn't. 
He didn't seem to notice that I would not talk to him.' 

"She was now perfectly still. The wretched little 
parasol hung down against her dress from her joined 
hands. I was rigid with attention. It isn't every day 
that one culls such a volunteered tale on a girl's lips. 
The ugly street-noises swelling up for a moment covered 
the next few words she said. It was vexing. The 
next word I heard was 'worried.' 

" 'It worried you to have him there, walking by your 

'"Yes. Just that,' she went on with downcast eyes. 
There was something prettily comical in her attitude 
and her tone, while I pictured to myself a poor white- 
taced girl walking to her death with aD unconscious 


man striding by her side. Unconscious? I don '.t know. 
First of all, I felt certain that this was no chance meet- 
ing. Something had happened before. Was he a man 
for a coup-de-foudre, the lightning stroke of love? I 
don't think so. That sort of susceptibility is luckily 
rare. A world of inflammable lovers of the Romeo 
and Juliet type would very soon end in barbarism and 
misery. But it is a fact that in every man (not in every 
woman) there lives a lover; a lover who is called out in 
all his potentialities often by the most insignificant 
little things — as long as they come at the psychological 
moment: the glimpse of a face at an unusual angle, an 
evanescent attitude, the curve of a cheek often looked 
at before, perhaps, but then, at the moment, charged 
with astonishing significance. These are great mys- 
teries, of course. Magic signs. 

"I don't know in what the sign consisted in this 
case. It might have been her pallor (it wasn't pasty 
nor yet papery) that white face with eyes like blue 
gleams of fire and lips like red coals. In certain lights, 
in certain poises of head it suggested tragic sorrow. 
Or it might have been her wavy hair. Or even just 
that pointed chin stuck out a little, resentful and not 
particularly distinguished, doing away with the mys- 
terious aloofness of her fragile presence. But any way 
at a given moment Anthony must have suddenly seen 
the girl. And then, that something had happened to 
him. Perhaps nothing more than the thought coming 
into his head that this was 'a possible woman.' 

"Followed this waylaying! Its resolute character 
makes me think it was the chin's doing; that 'common 
mortal' touch which stands in such good stead to some 
women. Because men, I mean really masculine men, 
those whose generations have evolved an ideal woman, 
are often very timid. Who wouldn't be before the ideal? 


It's your sentimental trifler, who has just missed being 
nothing at all, who is enterprising, simply because it is 
easy to appear enterprising when one does not mean to 
put one's belief to the test. 

"Well, whatever it was that encouraged him, Cap- 
tain Anthony stuck to Flora de Barral in a manner 
which in a timid man might have been called heroic if it 
had not been so simple. Whether policy, diplomacy, 
simplicity, or just inspiration, he kept up his talk, 
rather deliberate, with very few pauses. Then sud- 
denly as if recollecting himself: 

" ' It's funny. I don't think you are annoyed with me 
for giving you my company unasked. But why don't 
you say something?' 

"I asked Miss de Barral what answer she made to 
this query. 

"'I made no answer,' she said in that even, unemo- 
tional low voice which seemed to be her voice for 
delicate confidences. 'I walked on. He did not seem 
to mind. We came to the foot of the quarry where the 
road winds up hill, past the place where you were sitting 
by the roadside that day. I began to wonder what I 
should do. After we reached the top Captain Anthony 
said that he had not been for a walk with a lady for 
years and years — almost since he was a boy. We had 
then come to where I ought to have turned off and 
struck across a field. I thought of making a run of it. 
But he would have caught me up. I knew he would; 
and, of course, he would not have allowed me. I 
couldn't give him the slip.' 

Why didn't you ask him to leave you? ' I inquired 

"He would not have taken any notice,' she went on 
steadily. 'And what could I have done then? I could 
not have started quarrelling with him — could I? I 


hadn't enough energy to get angry. I felt very tired 
suddenly. I just stumbled on straight along the road. 
Captain Anthony told me that the family — some rela- 
tions of his mother — he used to know in Liverpool was 
broken up now, and he had never made any friends 
since. All gone their different ways. All the girls 
married. Nice girls they were and very friendly to 
him when he was but little more than a boy. He re- 
peated: "Very nice,- cheery, clever girls." I sat down 
on a bank against a hedge and began to cry.' 

'"You must have astonished him not a little,' I ob- 

"Anthony, it seems, remained on the road looking 
down at her. He did not offer to approach her, neither 
did he make any other movement or gesture. Flora 
de Barral told me all this. She could see him through 
her tears, blurred to a mere shadow on the white road, 
and then again becoming more distinct, but always 
absolutely still and as if lost in thought before a strange 
phenomenon which demanded the closest possible at- 
tention. , 

" Flora learned later that he had never seen a woman 
cry; not in that way, at least. He was impressed and 
interested by the mysteriousness of the effect. She was 
very conscious of being looked at, but was not able to 
stop herself crying. In fact, she was not capable of any 
effort. Suddenly he advanced two steps, stooped, 
caught hold of her hands lying on her lap and pulled 
her up to her feet; she found herself standing close to 
him almost before she realized what he had done. Some 
people were coming briskly along the road and Captain 
Anthony muttered: 'You don't want to be stared at. 
What about that stile over there? Can we go back 
across the fields?' 

"She snatched her hands out of his grasp (it seems he 


had omitted to let them go), marched away from him 
and got over the stile. It was a big field sprinkled pro- 
fusely with white sheep. A trodden path crossed it 
diagonally. After she had gone more than half way 
she turned her head for the first time. Keeping five 
feet or so behind, Captain Anthony was following her 
with an air of extreme interest. Interest or eagerness. 
At any rate she caught an expression on his face which 
frightened her. But not enough, to make her run. 
And indeed, it would have had to be something incredi- 
bly awful to scare into a run a girl who had come to 
the end of her courage to live. 

"As if encouraged by this glance over the shoulder 
Captain Anthony came up boldly, and now that he was 
by her side, she felt his nearness intimately, like a touch. 
She tried to disregard this sensation. But she was not 
angry with him now. It wasn't worth while. She was 
thankful that he had the sense not to ask questions as 
to this crying. Of course he didn't ask because he 
didn't care. No one in the world cared for her, neither 
those who pretended nor yet those who did not pretend. 
She preferred the latter. 

" Captain Anthony opened for her a gate into another 
field; when they got through he kept walking abreast, 
elbow to elbow almost. His voice growled pleasantly 
in her very ear. Staying in this dull place was enough 
to give any one the blues. His sister scribbled all day. 
It was positively unkind. He alluded to his nieces as 
rude, selfish monkeys, without either feelings or man- 
ners. And he went on to talk about his ship being laid 
up for a month and dismantled for repairs. The worst 
was that on arriving in London he found he couldn't 
get the rooms he was used to, where they made him as 
comfortable as such a confirmed sea-dog as himself 
- could be anywhere on shore. 


"In the effort to subdue by dint of talking and to 
keep in check the mysterious, the profound attraction 
he felt already for that delicate being of flesh and blood, 
with pale cheeks, with darkened eyelids and eyes scalded 
with hot tears, he went on speaking of himself as a con- 
firmed enemy of life on shore — a perfect terror to a 
simple man, what with the fads and proprieties and the 
ceremonies and affectations. He hated all that. He 
wasn't fit for it. There was no rest and peace and secur- 
ity but on the sea. 

"This gave one a view of Captain Anthony as a 
hermit withdrawn from a wicked world. It was amus- 
ingly unexpected to me and nothing more. But it 
must have appealed straight to that bruised and bat- 
tered young soul. Still shrinking from his nearness 
she had ended by listening to him with avidity. His 
deep murmuring voice soothed her. And she thought 
suddenly that there was peace and rest in the grave too. 

"She heard him say: 'Look at my sister. She isn't a 
bad woman by any means. She asks me here because 
it's right and proper, I suppose, but she has no use for 
me. There you have your shore people. I quite 
understand anybody crying. I would have been gone 
already, only, truth to say, I haven't any friends to go 
to.' He added brusquely: 'And you?' 

"She made a slight negative sign. He must have 
been observing her, putting two and two together. After 
a pause he said simply: 'When I first came here I 
thought you were governess to these girls. My sister 
didn't say a word about you to me.' 

"Then Flora spoke for the first time. 

'"Mrs. Fyne is my best friend.' 

"'So she is mine,' he said without the slightest irony 
or bitterness, but added with conviction: 'That shows 
you what life ashore is. Much better be out of it.' 


"As they were approaching the cottage he was heard 
again as though a long silent -walk had not intervened: 
'But anyhow I shan't ask her anything about you.' 

"He stopped short and she went on alone. His last 
words had impressed her. Everything he had said 
seemed somehow to have a special meaning under its 
obvious conversational sense. Till she went in at the 
door of the cottage she felt his eyes resting on her. 

"That is it. He had made himself felt. That girl 
was, one may say, washing about with slack limbs in 
the ugly surf of life with no opportunity to strike out 
for herself, when suddenly she had been made to feel 
that there was somebody beside her in the bitter water. 
A most considerable moral event for her; whether she 
was aware of it or not. They met again at the one 
o'clock dinner. I am inclined to think that, being a 
healthy girl under her frail appearance, and fast walking 
and what I may call relief -crying (there are many kinds 
of crying) making one hungry, she made a good meal. 
It was Captain Anthony who had no appetite. His 
sister commented on it in a curt, businesslike manner, 
and the eldest of his delightful nieces said mockingly: 
'You have been taking too much exercise this morning, 
Uncle Roderick.' The mild Uncle Roderick turned 
upon her with a 'What do you know about it, young 
lady?' so charged with suppressed savagery that the 
whole round table gave one gasp and went dumb for 
the rest of the meal. He took no notice whatever of 
Flora de Barral. I don't think it was from prudence 
or any calculated motive. I believe he was so full of her 
aspects that he did not want to look in her direction 
when there were other people to hamper his imagination. 

"You understand I am piecing here bits of discon- 
nected statements. Next day Flora saw him leaning 
over the field-gate. When she told me this, I didn't 


of course ask her how it was she was there. Probably 
she could not have told me how it was she was there. 
The difficulty here is to keep steadily in view the then 
conditions of her existence, a combination of dreariness 
and horror. 

"That hermit-like but not exactly misanthropic 
sailor was leaning over the gate moodily. When he 
saw the white-faced restless Flora drifting like a lost 
thing along the road he put his pipe in his pocket and 
called out 'Good morning, Miss Smith' in a tone of 
amazing happiness. She, with one foot in life and the 
other in a nightmare, was at the same time inert and 
unstable, and very much at the mercy of sudden im- 
pulses. She swerved, came distractedly right up to the 
gate and looking straight into his eyes: 'I am not Miss 
Smith. That's not my name. Don't call me by it.' 

" She was shaking as if in a passion. His eyes expressed 
nothing; he only unlatched the gate in silence, grasped 
her arm and drew her in. Then closing it with a 
kick — 

"'Not your name? That's all one to me. Your 
name's the least thing about you I care for.' He was 
leading her firmly away from the gate though she re- 
sisted slightly. There was a sort of joy in his eyes 
which frightened her. 'You are not a 'princess in dis- 
guise,' he said with an unexpected laugh she found 
blood-curdling. 'And that's all I care for. You 
had better understand that I am not blind and not a 
fool. And then it's plain for even a fool to see that 
things have been going hard with you. You are on 
a lee shore and eating your heart out with worry.' 

"What seemed most awful to her was the elated light 
in his eyes, the rapacious smile that would come and go 
on his lips as if he'wert gloating over her misery. But 
her misery w*~s h'S opDortunity and he rejoiced while 


the tenderest pity seemed to flood his whole being. He 
pointed out to her that she knew who he was. He was 
Mrs. Fyne's brother. And, well, if his sister was the best 
friend she had in the world, then, by Jove, it was about 
time somebody came along to look after her a little. 

"Flora had tried more than once to free herself, but 
he tightened his grasp on her arm each time and even 
shook it a little without ceasing to speak. The near- 
ness of his face intimidated her. He seemed striving 
to look her through. It was obvious the world had 
been using her ill. And even as he spoke with indigna- 
tion the very marks and stamp of this ill-usage of which 
he was so certain seemed to add to the inexplicable 
attraction he felt for her person. It was not pity alone, 
I take it. It was something more spontaneous, perverse 
and exciting. It gave him the feeling that if only he 
could get hold of her, no woman would belong to him 
so completely as this woman. 

'"Whatever your troubles,' he said, 'I am the man to 
take you away from them; that is, if you are not afraid. 
You told me you had no friends. Neither have I. No- 
body ever cared for me as far as I can remember. Per- 
haps you could. Yes, I live on the sea. But who 
would you be parting from? No one. You have no 
one belonging to you.' 

"At this point she broke away from him and ran. He 
did not pursue her. The tall hedges tossing in the 
wind, the wide fields, the clouds driving over the sky 
and the sky itself wheeled about her in masses of green 
and white and blue as if the world were breaking up 
silently in a whirl, and her foot at the next step were 
bound to find the void. She reached the gate all right, 
got out, and, once on the road, discovered that she had 
not the courage to look back. The rest of that day 
she spent with the Fyne girls who gave her to under- 


stand that she was a slow and unprofitable person. 
Long after tea, nearly at dusk, Captain Anthony (the 
son of the poet) appeared suddenly before her in the 
little garden in front of the cottage. They were alone 
for the moment. The wind had dropped. In the 
calm evening air the voices of Mrs. Fyne and the girls 
strolling aimlessly on the road could be heard. He 
said to her severely: 

"'You have understood?' 

She looked at him in silence. 

"'That I love you,' he finished. 

She shook her head the least bit. 

" ' Don't you believe me? ' he asked in a low, infuriated 

"'Nobody would love me,' she answered in a very 
quiet tone. 'Nobody could.' 

"He was dumb for a time, astonished beyond measure 
as he well might have been. He doubted his ears. He 
was outraged. 

'"Eh? What? Couldn't love you? What do you 
know about it? It's my affair, isn't it? You dare say 
that to a man who has just told you ! You must be mad ! ' 

"'Very nearly,' she said with the accent of pent-up 
sincerity, and even relieved because she was able to 
say something which she felt was true. For the last 
few days she had felt herself several times near that 
madness which is but an intolerable lucidity of appre- 

"The clear voices of Mrs. Fyne and the girls were 
coming nearer, sounding affected in the peace of the 
passion-laden earth. He began storming at her hastily. 

"'Nonsense! Nobody could . . . Indeed! Pah! 
You'll have to be shown that somebody can. I can. 
Nobody . . .' He made a contemptuous hissing 
noise. 'More likely ycra can't. They have done some- 


thing to you. Something's crushed your pluck. You 
can't face a man — that's what it is. What made you 
like this? Where do you come from? You have been 
put upon. The scoundrels — whoever they are, men 
or women, seem to have robbed you of your very name. 
You say you are not Miss Smith. Who are you, 

"She did not answer. He muttered, 'Not that I 
care,' and fell silent, because the fatuous self-confident 
chatter of the Fyne girls could be heard at the very gate. 
But they were not going to bed yet. They passed on. 
He waited a little in silence and immobility, then 
stamped his foot and lost control of himself. He growled 
at her in a savage passion. She felt certain that he was 
threatening her and calling her names. She was no 
stranger to abuse, as we know, but there seemed to be a 
particular kind of ferocity in this which was new to her. 
She began to tremble. The especially terr^ying thing 
t was that she could not make out the nature of these 
awful menaces and names. Not a word. Yet it was 
not the shrinking anguish of her other experiences of 
angry scenes. She made a mighty effort, though her 
knees were knocking together, and in an expiring voice 
demanded that he should let her go indoors. 'Don't 
stop me. It's no use. It's no use,' she repeated faintly, 
feeling an invincible obstinacy rising within her, yet 
without anger against that raging man. 

"He became articulate suddenly, and, without raising 
his voice, perfectly audible. 

"No use! No use! You dare stand here and tell 
me that — you white-faced wisp, you wreath of mist, 
you little ghost of all the sorrow in the world. You 
dare! Haven't I been looking at you? You are all 
eyes. What makes your cheeks always so white as if 
you had seen something . . , Don't speak. I love 


it . . . No use! And you really think that I can 
now go to sea for a year or more, to the other side of the 
world somewhere, leaving you behind! Why! You 
would vanish . . . what little there is of you. Some 
rough wind will blow you away altogether. You have 
no holding ground on earth. Well, then, trust yourself 
to me — to the sea — which is deep like your eyes.' 

"She said: 'Impossible.' He kept quiet for a while, 
then asked in a totally changed tone, a tone of gloomy 
curiosity : 

"'You can't stand me then? Is that it?' 

"'No,' she said, more steady herself. 'I am not 
thinking of you at all.' 

" The inane voices of the Fyne girls were heard over 
the sombre fields calling to each other, thin and clear. 
He muttered : 'You could try to. Unless you are think- 
ing of somebody else.' 

" ' Yes. I am thinking of somebody else, of someone 
who has nobody to think of him but me.' 

" His shadowy form stepped out of her way, and sud- 
denly leaned sideways against the wooden support of 
the porch. And as she stood still, surprised by this 
staggering movement, his voice spoke up in a tone quite 
strange to her: 

"'Go in then. Go out of my sight — I thought you 
said nobody could love you.' 

"She was passing him when suddenly he struck her 
as so forlorn that she was inspired to say: 'No one has 
ever loved me — not in that way — if that's what you 
mean. Nobody would.' 

"He detached himself brusquely from the post, and 
she did not shrink; but Mrs. Fyne and the girls were al- 
ready at the gate. 

"All he understood was that everything was not over 
yet, There was no time to lose; Mrs, Fyne and the 

228, CHANCE 

girls had come in at the gate. He whispered 'Wait' 
with such authority (he was the son of Carleon Anthony, 
the domestic autocrat) that it did arrest her for a mo- 
ment, long enough to hear him say that he could not be 
left like this to puzzle over her nonsense all night. She 
was to slip down again into the garden later on, ae 
soon as she could do so without being heard. He would 
be there waiting for her till — till daylight. She didn't 
think he could go to sleep, did she? And she had better 
come, or He broke off on an unfinished threat. 

"She vanished into the unlighted cottage just as 
Mrs. Fyne came up to the porch. Nervous, holding 
her breath in the darkness of the living-room, she heard 
her best friend say: 'You ought to have joined us, 
Roderick.' And then: 'Have you seen Miss Smith 

"Flora shuddered, expecting Anthony to break out 
into betraying imprecations on Miss Smith's head, and 
cause a painful and humiliating explanation. She 
imagined him full of his mysterious ferocity. To her 
great surprise, Anthony's voice sounded very much 
as usual, with perhaps a slight tinge of grimness: 'Miss 
Smith! No. I've seen no Miss Smith.' 

"Mrs. Fyne seemed satisfied — and not much con- 
cerned really. 

"Flora^ relieved, got clear away to her room upstairs, 
and shutting her door quietly, dropped into a chair. 
She was used to reproaches, abuse, to all sorts of wicked 
ill usage — short of actual beating on her body*. Other- 
wise inexplicable angers had cut and slashed and tram- 
pled down her youth without mercy — and mainly, it 
appeared, because she was the financier de Barral's 
daughter and also condemned to a degrading sort of 
poverty through the action of treacherous men who had 
turned upon her father in his hour of need. And she 


thought with the tenderest possible affection of that 
upright figure buttoned up in a long frock-coat, soft- 
voiced and having but little to say to his girl. She 
seemed to feel his hand closed round hers. On his 
flying visits to Brighton he would always walk hand in 
hand with her. People stared covertly at them; the 
band was playing; and there was the sea — the blue 
gaiety of the sea. They were quietly happy together. 
. . . It was all over! 

"An immense anguish of the present wrung her heart, 
and she nearly cried aloud. That dread of what was 
before her which had been eating up her courage slowly 
in the course of odious years, flamed up into an access 
of panic, that sort of headlong panic which had already 
driven her out twice to the top of the cliff-like quarry. 
She jumped jip, saying to herself: 'Why not now? At 
once! Yes. I'll do it now — in the dark!' The very 
horror of it seemed to give her additional resolution. 

"She came down the staircase quietly, and only on 
the point of opening the door and because of the dis- 
covery that it was unfastened, she remembered Captain 
Anthony's threat to stay in the garden all night. She 
hesitated. She did not understand the mood of that 
man clearly. He was violent. But she had gone be- 
yond the point where things matter. What would he 
think of her coming down to him — as he would naturally 
suppose? And even that didn't matter. He could 
not despise her more than she despised herself. She 
must have been light-headed because the thought came 
into her mind that should he get into ungovernable 
fury from disappointment, and perchance strangle her, 
it would be as good a way to be done with it as any. 

"You had that thought!' I exclaimed in wonder. 

"With downcast eyes and speaking with a most pains- 
taking precision (her very hpsj her red lips, seemed to 


move Just enough to be heard and no more), she said 
that, yes, the thought came into her head. This makes 
one shudder at the mysterious ways girls acquire knowl- 
edge. For this was a thought, wild enough, I admit, 
but which could only have come from the depths of 
that sort of experience which she had not had, and went 
far beyond a young girl's possible conception of the 
strongest and most veiled of human emotions. 

"'He was there, of course?' I said. 

"'Yes, he was there.' She saw him on the path 
directly she stepped outside the porch. He was very 
still. It was as though he had been standing there with 
his face to the door for hours. 

"Shaken up by the changing moods of passion and 
tenderness, he must have been ready for any extrava- 
gance of conduct. Knowing the profound silence each 
night brought to that nook of the country, I could 
imagine them having the feeling of being the only two 
people on the wide earth. A row of six or seven lofty 
elms just across the road opposite the cottage made the 
night more obscure in that little garden. If these two 
sould just make out each other that was all. 

'"Well! And were you very much terrified?' I 

" She made me wait a little before she said, raising her 
eyes: 'He was gentleness itself.' 

"I noticed three abominable, drink-sodden loafers, 
sallow and dirty, who had come to range themselves in 
a row within ten feet of us against the front of the 
public-house. They stared at Flora de Barral's back 
with unseeing, mournful fixity. 

"Let's move this way a little,' I proposed. 

" She turned at once and we made a few paces; not too 
far to take us out of sight of the hotel door, but very 
nearly. I could just keep my eyes on it. After all, 


I had not been so very long with the girl. If you were 
to disentagle the words we actually exchanged from my 
comments you would see that they were not so very 
many, including everything she had so unexpectedly 
told me of her story. No, not so very many. And 
now it seemed as though there would be no more. No ! 
I could expect no more. The confidence was wonderful 
enough in its nature as far as it went, and perhaps not 
to have been expected from any other girl under the sun. 
And I felt a little ashamed. The origin of our intimacy 
was too gruesome. It was as if listening to her I had 
taken advantage of having seen her poor, bewildered, 
scared soul without its veils. But I was curious, too; 
or, to render myself justice without false modesty — I 
was anxious; anxious to know a little more. 

"I felt like a blackmailer all the same when I made 
my attempt with a light-hearted remark. 

"'And so you gave up that walk you proposed to 

"'Yes, I gave up the walk,' she said slowly before 
raising her downcast eyes. When she did so it was with 
an extraordinary effect. It was like catching sight of a 
piece of blue sky, of a stretch of open water. And for 
a moment I understood the desire of that man to whom 
the sea and sky of his solitary life had appeared sud- 
denly incomplete without that glance which seemed to 
belong to them both. He was not for nothing the son 
of a poet. I looked into those unabashed eyes while 
the girl went on, her demure appearance and precise 
tone changed to a very earnest expression. Woman 
is various indeed. 

"'But I want you to understand, Mr. . . .' she had 
actually to think of my name . . . 'Mr. Marlow, 
that I have written to Mrs. Fyne that I haven't been — 
that I have done nothing to make Captain Anthony 


behave to me as he has behaved. I haven't. I 
haven't. It isn't my doing. It isn't my fault — if she 
likes to put it in that way. But she, with her ideas, 
ought to understand that I couldn't, that I couldn't 
. . . I know she hates me now. I think she never 
liked me. I think nobody ever cared for me. I was 
told once nobody could care for me; and I think it is 
true. At any rate I can't forget it.' 

"Her abominable experience with the governess had 
implanted in her unlucky breast a lasting doubt, an 
ineradicable suspicion of herself and of others. I 

'"Remember, Miss de Barral, that to be fair you 
must trust a man altogether — or not at all.' 

" She dropped her eyes suddenly. I thought I heard 
a faint sigh. I tried to take a light tone again, and yet 
it seemed impossible to get off the ground which gave 
me my standing with her. 

"'Mrs. Fyne is absurd. She's an excellent woman, 
but really you could not be expected to throw away 
your chance of life simply that she might cherish a good 
opinion of your memory. That would be excessive.' 

"'It was not of my life that I was thinking while 
Captain Anthony was — was speaking to me,' said Flora 
de Barral with an effort. 

"I told her that she was wrong then. She ought to 
have been thinking of her life, and not only of her life, 
but of the life of the man who was speaking to her too. 
She let me finish, then shook her head impatiently. 

'"I mean — death.' 

"'Well,' I said, 'when he stood before you there, out- 
side the cottage,, he really stood between you and that. 
I have it out of your own mouth. You can't deny it.' 

'"If ,"ou will have it that he saved my life, then he has 
got it. It wap not for me. _Oh no! It was not for 


me that I It was not fear! There!' She finished 

petulantly: 'And you may just as well know it.' 

"She hung her head and swung the parasol slightly 
to and fro. I thought a little. 

"'Do you know French, Miss de Barral?' I asked. 

"She made a sign with her head that she did, but 
without showing any surprise at the question and with- 
out ceasing to swing her parasol. 

" ' Well then, somehow or other I have the notion that 
Captain Anthony is what the French call un galant 
homme. I should like to think he is being treated as he 

"The form of her lips (I could see them under the 
brim of her hat) was suddenly altered into a line of 
seriousness. The parasol stopped swinging. 

"'I have given him what he wanted — that's myself,' 
she said without a tremor and with a striking dignity of 

"Impressed by the manner and the directness of the 
words, I hesitated for a moment what to say. Then 
made up my mind to clear up the point. 

"'And you have got what you wanted? Is that it?' 

"The daughter of the egregious financier de Barral 
did not answer at once this question going to the heart 
of things. Then raising her head and gazing wistfully 
across the street noisy with the endless transit of in- 
numerable bargains, she said with intense gravity: 

" ' He has been most generous.' 

"I was pleased to hear these words. Not that I 
doubted the infatuation of Roderick Anthony, but I was 
pleased to hear something which proved that she was 
sensible and open to the sentiment of gratitude which 
in this case was significant. In the face of man's 
desire a girl is excusable if she thinks herself priceless. 
I mean a girl of our civilization which has established a 


dithyrambie phraseology for the expression of love. 
A man in love will accept any convention exalting the 
object of bis passion and in this indirect way his passion 
itself. In what way the captain of the ship Ferndale 
gave proofs of lover-like lavishness I could not guess 
very well. But I was glad she was appreciative. 
It is lucky that small things please women. And 
it is not silly of them to be thus pleased. It is in small 
things that the deepest loyalty, that which they need 
most, the loyalty of the passing moment, is best ex- 

"She had remained thoughtful, letting her deep 
motionless eyes rest on the streaming jumble of traffic. 
Suddenly she said : 

"'And I wanted to ask you ... I was really 
glad when I saw you actually here. Who would have 
expected you here, at this spot, before this hotel! I 
certainly never . . . You see it meant a lot to me. 
You are the only person who knows ... who 
knows for certain . . .' 

"'Knows what?' I said, not discovering at first 
what she had in her mind. Then I saw it. 'Why can't 
you leave that alone?' I remonstrated, rather an- 
noyed at the invidious position she was forcing on me 
in a sense. 'It's true that I was the only -person to 
see,' I added. 'But, as it happens, after your mys- 
terious disappearance I told the Fynes the story of our 

"Her eyes raised to mine had an expression of dreamy, 
unfathomable candour, if I dare say so. And if you 
wonder what I mean I can only say that I have seen the 
sea wear such an expression on one or two occasions 
shortly before sunrise on a calm, fresh day. She said 
as if meditating aloud that she supposed the Fynes 
were not likely to talk about that. She couldn't im- 


agine any connection in which .... Why should 

"As her tone had become interrogatory I assented. 
'To be sure. There's no reason whatever — ' thinking 
to myself that they would be more likely to keep quiet 
about it. They had other things to talk of. And then 
remembering little Fyne stuck upstairs for an uncon- 
scionable time, enough to blurt out everything he ever 
knew in his life, I reflected that he would assume 
naturally that Captain Anthony had nothing to learn 
from him about Flora de Barral. It had been up to 
now my assumption too. I saw my mistake. The 
sincerest of women will make no unnecessary confi- 
dences to a man. And this is as it should be. 

" ' No — no ! ' I said reassuringly. ' It's most unlikely. 
Are you much concerned?' 

"'Well, you see, when I came down,' she said again in 
that precise demure tone, ' when I came down — into the 
garden Captain Anthony misunderstood — — ' 

"'Of course he would. Men are so conceited,' I 

"I saw it well enough that he must have thought she 
had come down to him. What else could he have 
thought? And then he had been 'gentleness itself.' 
A new experience for that poor, delicate, and yet so 
resisting creature. Gentleness in passion ! What could 
have been more seductive to the scared, starved heart 
of that girl? Perhaps had he been violent, she might 
have told him that what she came down to keep was 
the tryst of death — not of love. It occurred to me as 
I looked at her, young, fragile in aspect, and intensely 
alive in her quietness, that perhaps she did not know 
herself then what sort of tryst she was coming down to 

"She smiled faintly, almost awkwardly as if she were 


totally unused to smiling, at my cheap jocularity. Then 
she said with that forced precision, a sort of conscious 
primness : 

"'I didn't want him to know.' 

"I approved heartily. Quite right. Much better. 
Let him ever remain under his misapprehension which 
was so much more flattering for him. 

"I Iried to keep it in the tone of comedy; but she was, 
I believe, too simple to understand my intention. She 
went on, looking down. 

'"Oh! You think so? When I saw you I didn't 
know why you were here. I was glad when you spoke 
to me because this is exactly what I wanted to ask you 
for. I wanted to ask you if you ever meet Captain 
Anthony — by any chance — anywhere — you are a sailor 
too, are you not? — that you would never mention — 
never — that — that you had seen me over there.' 

'"My dear young lady,' I cried, horror-struck at the 
supposition. 'Why should I? What makes you think 
I should dream of . . .' 

"She had raised her head at my vehemence. She 
did not understand it. The world had treated her so 
dishonourably that she had no notion even of what 
mere decency of feeling is like. It was not her fault. 
Indeed, I don't know why she should have put her trust 
in anybody's promises. But I thought it would be 
better to promise. So I assured her that she could de- 
pend on my absolute silence. 

"'I am not likely to ever set eyes on Captain An- 
thony,' I added with conviction — as a further guarantee. 

"She accepted my assurance in silence, without a 
sign. Her gravity had in it something acute, perhaps 
because of that chin. While we were still looking at 
each other she declared: 

"'There's no deception in it really. I want you to 


6elieve that if I am here, like this, to-day, it is not from 
fear. It is not ! ' 

"'I quite understand,' I said. But her firm yet self- 
conscious gaze became doubtful. 'I do,' I insisted. 'I 
understand perfectly that it was not of death that you 
were afraid.' 

" She lowered her eyes slowly, and I went on : 

" 'As to life, that's another thing. And I don't know 
that one ought to blame you very much — though it 
seemed rather an excessive step. I wonder now if it 
isn't the ugliness rather than the pain of the struggle 
which . . .' 

"She shuddered visibly: 'But I do blame myself,' she 
exclaimed with feeling. 'I am ashamed.' And, drop- 
ping her head, she looked in a moment the very picture 
of remorse and shame. 

" ' Well, you will be going away from all its horrors/ 
I said. 'And surely you are not afraid of the sea. You 
are a sailor's granddaughter, I understand.' 

"She sighed deeply. She remembered her grand- 
father only a little. He was a clean-shaven man with 
a ruddy complexion and long, perfectly white hair. 
He used to take her on his knee, and putting his face 
near hers, talk to her in loving whispers. If only he 
were alive now . . . ! 

"She remained silent for a while. 

"'Aren't you anxious to see the ship?' I asked. 

"She lowered her head still more so that I could not 
see anything of her face. 

'"I don't know,' she murmured. 

"I had already the suspicion that she did not know 
her own feelings. All this work of the merest chance had 
been so unexpected, so sudden. And she had nothing 
to fall back upon, no experience but such as to shake her 
belief in every human being. She was dreadfully an*? 


pitifully forlorn. It was almost in order to comfort 
my own depression that I remarked cheerfully: 

'"Well, I know of somebody who must be growing 
extremely anxious to see you.' 

'"I am before my time,' she confessed simply, rousing 
herself. 'I had nothing to do. So I came out.' 

"I had the sudden vision of a shabby, lonely little 
room at the other end of the town. It had grown in- 
tolerable to her restlessness. The mere thought of it 
oppressed her. Flora de Barral was looking frankly 
at her chance confidant. 

'"And I came this way,' she went on. 'I appointed 
the time myself yesterday, but Captain Anthony 
would not have minded. He told me he was going to 
look over some business papers till I came.' 

"The idea of the son of the poet, the rescuer of the 
most forlorn damsel of modern times, the man of vio- 
lence, gentleness and generosity, plunged up to his neck 
in ship's accounts amused me. 'I am sure he would 
not have minded,' I said, smiling. But the girl's stare 
was sombre, her thin white face seemed pathetically 

'"I can hardly believe yet,' she murmured anxiously. 

" ' It's quite real. Never fear,' I said encouragingly, 
but had to change my tone at once. 'You had better 
go down that way a little,' I directed her abruptly. 

"I had seen Fyne come striding out of the hotel door. 
The intelligent girl, without staying to ask questions, 
walked away from me quietly down one street while I 
hurried on to meet Fyne coming up the other at his 
efficient pedestrian gait. My object was to stop him 
getting as far as the corner. He must have been think- 
ing too hard to be aware of his surroundings. I put 
myself in his way, and he nearly walked into me. 


"'Hallo!' I said. 

"His surprise was extreme. 'You here! You don't 
mean to say you have been waiting for me?' 

"I said negligently that I had been detained by unex- 
pected business in the neighbourhood, and thus hap- 
pened to catch sight of him coming- out. 

"He stared at me with solemn distraction, obviously 
thinking of something else. I suggested that he had 
better take the next city-ward tramcar. He was in- 
attentive, and I perceived that he was profoundly per- 
turbed. As Miss de Barral (she had moved out of sight) 
could not possibly approach the hotel door as long as 
we remained where we were, I proposed that we should 
wait for the car on the other side of the street. Hfc. 
obeyed rather the slight touch on his arm than my 
words, and while we were crossing the wide roadway 
in the midst of the lumbering wheeled traffic, he ex- 
claimed in his deep tone, 'I don't know which of these ' 
two is more mad than the other!' 

"'Really!' I said, pulling him forward from under 
the noses of two enormous sleepy-headed cart-horses. 
He skipped wildly out of the way and up on the curb- 
stone with a purely instinctive precision; his mind had 
nothing to do with his movements. In the middle 
of his leap, and while in the act of sailing gravely through 
the air, he continued to relieve his outraged feel- 

'"You would never believe! They are mad!' 

"I took care to place myself in such a position that to 
face me he had to turn his back on the hotel across the 
road. I thought there was some misapprehension in 
the first statement he shot out at me without loss of 
time, that Captain Anthony had been glad to see him. 
It was indeed difficult to believe that, directly he 
opened the door, his wife's 'sailor-brother' had r>osi- 


tively shouted: 'Oh, it's you! The very man I wanted 
to see.' 

"'I found him sitting there,' went on Fyne impres- 
sively in his grave chest voice, 'drafting his will.' 

"This was unexpected, but I preserved a non-com- 
mittal attitude, knowing full well that our actions in 
themselves are neither mad nor sane. But I did not 
see what there was to be excited about. And Fyne 
was distinctly excited. I understood it better when 
I learned that the captain of the Ferndale wanted little 
Fyne to be one of the trustees. He was leaving every- 
thing to his wife. Naturally, a request which involved 
him into sanctioning in a way a proceeding which he 
had been sent by his wife to oppose, must have ap- 
peared sufficiently mad to Fyne. 

'"Me! Me, of all people in the world!' he repeated 
portentously. But I could see that he was frightened. 
Such want of tact! 

"'He knew I came from his sister. You don't put 
a man into such an awkward position,' complained 
Fyne. 'It made me speak much more strongly against 
all this very painful business than I would have had 
the heart to do otherwise.' 

"I pointed out to him concisely, and keeping my 
eyes on the door of the hotel, that he and his wife were 
the only bond with the land Captain Anthony had. 
Who else could he have asked? 

'"I explained to him that he was breaking this bond,' 
declared Fyne solemnly. 'Breaking it once for all. 
And for what — for what?' 

"He glared at me. I could perhaps have given him 
an inkling for what, but I said nothing. He started 
again : 

"'My wife assures me that the girl does not love him 
a bit. She goes by that letter she received from her. 


There is a passage in it where she practically admits 
that she was quite unscrupulous in accepting this offer 
of marriage, but says to my wife that she supposes she, 
my wife, will not blame her — as it was in self-defence. 
My wife has her own ideas, but this is an outrageous 
misapprehension of her views. Outrageous.' 

"The good little man paused and then added weight- 

"I didn't tell that to my brother-in-law — I mean, my 
wife's views.' 

"No,' I said. 'What would have been the good?' 
"It's positive infatuation,' agreed little Fyne, in the 
tone as though he had made an awful discovery. 'I have 
never seen anything so hopeless and inexplicable in my 
life. I — I felt quite frightened and sorry,' he added, 
while I looked at him curiously asking myself whether 
ihis excellent civil servant and notable pedestrian had 
felt the breath of a great and fatal love-spell passing 
him by in the room of that East-End hotel. He did 
look for a moment as though he had seen a ghost, an 
other-world thing. But that look vanished instantane* 
ously, and he nodded at me with mere exasperation at 
something quite of this world — whatever it was. 'It's 
a bad business. My brother-in-law knows nothing of 
women,' he cried with an air of profound, experienced 

"What he imagined he knew of women himself I 
can't tell. I did not know anything of the opportu- 
nities he might have had. But this is a subject which, if 
approached with undue solemnity, is apt 'to elude one's 
grasp entirely. No doubt Fyne knew something of a 
woman who was Captain Anthony's sister. But that, 
admittedly, had been a very solemn study. I smiled 
at him gently, and as if encouraged or provoked, he 
completed his thought rather explosively. 


"'And that girl understands nothing. . . . It's 
sheer lunacy.' 

'"I don't know,' I said, 'whether the circumstances 
of isolation at sea would be any alleviation to the dan- 
ger. But it's certain that they will have the oppor- 
tunity to learn everything about each other in a lonely 

"'But dash it all,' he cried in hollow accents which 
at the same time had the tone of bitter irony — I had 
never before heard a sound so quaintly ugly and al- 
most horrible — 'You forget Mr. Smith.' 

'"What Mr. Smith?' I asked innocently. 

"Fyne made an extraordinary simiesque grimace. 
I believe it was quite involuntary, but you know that a 
grave, much-lined, shaven countenance when distorted 
in an unusual way is extremely apelike. It was a sur- 
prising sight, and rendered me not only speechless but 
stopped the progress of my thought completely. I 
must have presented a remarkably imbecile appearance. 

" ' My brother-in-law considered it amusing to chaff me 
about us introducing the girl as Miss Smith,' said Fyne, 
going surly in a moment. 'He said that perhaps if he 
had heard her real name from the first it might have 
restrained him. As it was, he made the discovery too 
late. Asked me to tell Zoe this together with a lot 
more nonsense.' 

"Fyne gave me the impression of having escaped 
from a man inspired by a grimly playful ebullition of 
high spirits. It must have been most distasteful to 
him; and his solemnity got damaged somehow in the 
process, I perceived. There were holes in it through 
which I could see a new, an unknown Fyne. 

"'You wouldn't believe it,' he went on, 'but that girl 
looks upon her father exclusively as a victim. I don't 
know/ he burst out suddenly through an enormous rent 


in his solemnity, 'if she thinks him absolutely a saint, 
but she certainly imagines him to be a martyr.' 

"It is one of the advantages of that magnificent 
invention, the prison, that you may forget people who 
are put there as though they were dead. One needn't 
worry about them. Nothing can happen to them that 
you can help. They can do nothing which might pos- 
sibly matter to anybody. They come out of it, though, 
but that seems hardly an advantage to themselves 
or any one else. I had completely forgotten the finan- 
cier de Barral. The girl for me was an orphan, but now 
I perceived suddenly the force of Fyne's qualifying 
statement, 'to a certain sxtent.' It would have been 
infinitely more kind all round for the law to have shot, 
beheaded, strangled, or otherwise destroyed this ab- 
surd de Barral, who was a danger to a moral world in- 
habited by a credulous multitude not fit to take care of 
itself. But I observed to Fyne that, however insane 
was the view she held, one could not declare the girl 
mad on that account. < 

'"So she thinks of her father — does she? I suppose 
she would appear to us saner if she thought only of 

'"I am positive,' Fyne said earnestly, 'that she went 
and made desperate eyes at Anthony . . . ' 

'"Oh come!' I interrupted. 'You haven't seen her 
make eyes. You don't know the colour of her eyes.' 

"'Very well! It don't matter. But it could hardly 
have come to that if she hadn't. . . . It's all one, 
though. I tell you she has led him on, or accepted 
him, if you like, simply because she was thinking of her 
father. She doesn't care a bit about Anthony, I be- 
lieve. She cares for no one. Never cared for any one. 
Ask Zoe. For myself I don't blame her,' added Fyne, 
giving me another view of unsuspected things through 


the rags and tatters of his damaged solemnity. 'No! 
by heavens, I don't blame her — the poor devil.' 

"I agreed with him silently. I suppose affections 
are, in a sense, to be learned. If there exists a native 
spark of love in all of us, it must be fanned while we are 
young. Hers, if she ever had it, had been drenched 
in as ugly a lot of corrosive liquid as could be imagined. 
But I was surprised at Fyne obscurely feeling this. 

"'She loves no one except that preposterous adver- 
tising shark,' he pursued venomously, but in a more 
deliberate manner. 'And Anthony knows it.' 

'"Does he?' I said doubtfully. 

'"She's quite capable of having told him herself,' 
affirmed Fyne, with amazing insight. 'But whether 
or no, I've told him.' 

"'You did? From Mrs. Fyne, of course.' 

"Fyne only blinked owlishly at this piece of my in- 

'"And how did Captain Anthony receive this in- 
teresting information?' I asked further. 

"'Most improperly,' said Fyne, who really was in a 
state in which he didn't mind what he blurted out. 
'He isn't himself. He begged me to tell his sister that 
he offered no remarks on her conduct. Very improper 
and inconsequent. He said ... I was tired of this 
wrangling. I told him I made allowances for the state 
of excitement he was in.' 

"'You know, Fyne,' I said, 'a man in jail seems to 
me such an incredible, cruel, nightmarish sort of thing 
that I can hardly believe in his existence. Certainly 
not in relation to any other existences.' 

"'But dash it all,' cried Fyne, 'he isn't shut up for 
life. They are going to let him out. He's coming out! 
That's the whole trouble. What is he coming out to, I 
want to know? It seems a more cruel business than 


the shutting him up was. This has been the Vvorry for 
weeks. Do you see now?' 

"I saw, all sorts of things! Immediately before me I 
saw the excitement of little Fyne — mere food for won- 
der. Further off, in a sort of gloom and beyond the 
light of day and the movement of the street, I saw the 
figure of a man, stiff like a ramrod, moving with small 
steps, a slight girlish figure by his side. And the gloom 
was like the gloom of villainous slums, of misery, of 
wretchedness, of a starved and degraded existence. 
It was a relief that I could see only their shabby hope- 
less backs. He was an awful ghost. But indeed to 
call him a ghost was only a refinement of polite speech, 
and a manner of concealing one's terror of such things. 
Prisons are wonderful contrivances. Open — shut. Very 
neat. Shut — open. And out comes some sort of 
corpse, to wander awfully in a world in which it has no 
possible connections and carrying with it the appalling 
tainted atmosphere of its silent abode. Marvellous ar- 
rangement. It works automatically, and, when you 
look at it, the perfection makes you sick; which for a 
mere mechanism is no mean triumph. Sick and scared. 
It had nearly scared that poor girl to her death. Faricy 
having to take such a thing by the hand! Now I 
understood the remorseful strain I had detected in her 

"'By Jove!' I said. 'They are about to let him 
out! I never thought of that.' 

"Fyne was contemptuous either of me or of things 
at large. 

"'You didn't suppose he was to be kept in jail for 

"At that moment I caught sight of Flora de Barral 
at the junction of the two streets. Then some vehicles 
following each other in quick succession hid from my 


sight the black slight figure with just a touch of colour 
in her hat. She was walking slowly; and it might have 
been caution or reluctance. While listening to Fyne I 
stared hard past his shoulder, trying to catch sight of her 
again. He was going on with positive heat, the rags 
of his solemnity dropping off him at every second sen- 

"That was just it. His wife and he had been per- 
fectly aware of it. Of course the girl never talked of 
her father with Mrs. Fyne. I suppose with her theory 
of innocence she found it difficult. But she must have 
been thinking of it day and night. What to do with 
him? Where to go? How to keep body and soul to- 
gether? He had never made any friends. The only 
relations were the atrocious East-End cousins. We 
know what they were. Nothing but wretchedness, 
whichever way she turned in an unjust and prejudiced 
world. And to look at him helplessly she felt would be 
too much for her. 

"I won't say I was thinking these thoughts. It was 
not necessary. This complete knowledge was in my 
head while I stared hard across the wide road, so hard 
that I failed to hear little Fyne till he raised his deep 
voice indignantly. 

"'I don't blame the girl,' he was saying. 'He is 
infatuated with her. Anybody can see that. Why 
she got such a hold on him I can't understand. She 
said "Yes" to him only for the sake of that fatuous, 
swindling father of hers. It's perfectly plain if one 
thinks it over a moment. One needn't even think of 
it. We have it under her own hand. In that letter 
to my wife she says she has acted unscrupulously. She 
has owned up, then, for what else can it mean, I should 
like to know. And so they are to be married before 
that old idiot comes out. . , . He will be surprised,' 


commented Fyne suddenly in a strangely malignant 
tone. 'He will be met at the jail door by a Mrs. 
Anthony, a Mrs. Captain Anthony. Very pleasant 
for Zoe. And for all I know, my brother-in-law means 
to turn up dutifully too. A little family event. It's 
extremely pleasant to think of. Delightful. A charm- 
ing family party. We three against the world — and 
all that sort of thing. And what for? For a girl that 
doesn't care twopence for him.' 

"The demon of bitterness had entered into little 
Fyne. He amazed me as though he had changed his 
skin from white to black. It was quite as wonderful. 
And he kept it up, too. 

'"Luckily there are some advantages in the — the pro- 
fession of a sailor. As long as they defy the world away 
at sea somewhere eighteen thousand miles from here, I 
don't mind so much. I wonder what that interesting 
old party will say. He will have another surprise. 
They mean to drag him along with them on board the 
ship straight away. Rescue work. Just think of Roder- 
ick Anthony, the son of a gentleman, after all. . . .' 

"He gave me a little shock. I thought he was going 
to say the 'son of the poet,' as usual; but his mind was 
not running on such vanities now. His unspoken 
thought must have gone on 'and uncle of my girls.' 
I suspect that he had been roughly handled by Captain 
Anthony up there, and the resentment gave a tremen- 
dous fillip to the slow play of his wits. Those men of 
sober fancy, when anything rouses their imaginative 
faculty, are very thorough. 'Just think!' he cried. 
'The three of them crowded into a four-wheeler, and 
Anthony sitting deferentially opposite that astonished 
old jail-bird ! ' 

" The good little man laughed. An improper sound it 
was to come from his manly chest; and what made it 


worse was the thought that for the least thing, by a mete 
hair's breadth, he might have taken this affair senti- 
mentally. But clearly Anthony was no diplomatist. His 
brother-in-law must have appeared to him, to use the 
language of shore people, a perfect philistine with a 
heart like a flint. What Fyne precisely meant by 
'wrangling' I don't know but I had no doubt that these 
two had 'wrangled' to a profoundly disturbing extent. 
How much the other was affected I could not even im- 
agine; but the man before me was quite amazingly 

"'In a four-wheeler! Take him on board!' I mut- 
tered, startled by the change in Fyne. 

" ' That's the plan — nothing less. If I am to believe 
what I have been told, his feet will scarcely touch the 
ground between the prison-gates and the deck of that 

"The transformed Fyne spoke in a forcibly lowered 
tone which I heard without difficulty. The rumbling, 
composite noises of the street were hushed for a moment, 
during one of these sudden breaks in the traffic as if 
the stream of commerce had dried up at its source. 
Having an unobstructed view past Fyne's shoulder, 
I was astonished to see that the girl was still there. I 
thought she had gone up long before. But there was 
her black slender figure, her white face under the 
roses of her hat. She stood on the edge of the pave- 
ment as people stand on the bank of a stream, very 
still, as if waiting — or as if unconscious of where she 
was. The three dismal, sodden loafers (I could see 
them too; they hadn't budged an inch) seemed to me 
to be watching her. Which was horrible. 

"Meantime Fyne was telling me rather remarkable 
things — for him. He declared first it was a mercy in a 
sense. Then he asked me if it were not real madness, 


to saddle one's existence with such a perpetual re- 
minder. The daily existence. The isolated sea-bound 
existence. To bring such an additional strain into the 
solitude already trying enough for two people was the 
craziest thing. Undesirable relations were bad enough 
on shore. One could cut them or at least forget their 
existence now and then. He himself was preparing 
to forget his brother-in-law's existence as much as 

"That was the general sense of his remarks, not his 
exact words. I thought that his wife's brother's ex- 
istence had never been very embarrassing to him, but 
that now of course he would have to abstain from his 
allusions to the 'son of the poet — you know.' I said 
'yes, yes' in the pauses because I did not want him to 
turn round; and all the time I was watching the girl 
intently. I thought I knew now what she meant with 
her 'He was most generous.' Yes. Generosity of 
character may carry a man through any situation. 
But why didn't she go then to her generous man? 
Why stand there as if clinging to this solid earth which 
she surely hated as one must hate the place where one 
has been tormented, hopeless, unhappy? Suddenly 
she stirred. Was she going to cross over? No. She 
turned and began to walk slowly close to the curbstone, 
reminding me of the time when I discovered her walk- 
ing near the edge of a ninety-foot sheer drop. It was 
the same impression, the same carriage, straight, slim, 
with rigid head and the two hands hanging lightly 
clasped in front — only now a small sunshade was 
dangling from them. I saw something fateful in that 
deliberate pacing towards the inconspicuous door with 
the words Hotel Entrance on the glass panels. 

"She was abreast of it now and I thought that sht 
would stop again; but no ! She swe rved rigidly — at the 


moment there was no one near her; she had that bit 
of pavement to herself — with inanimate slowness as 
if moved by something outside herself. 

"'A confounded convict,' Fyne burst out. 

"With the sound of that word offending my ears I 
saw the girl extend her arm, push the door open a little 
way and glide in. I saw plainly that movement, the 
hand put out in advance with the gesture of a sleep- 

"She had vanished, her black figure had melted in the 
darkness of the open door. For some time Fyne said 
nothing; and I thought of the girl going upstairs, ap- 
pearing before the man. Were they looking at each 
other in silence and feeling they were alone in the world 
as lovers should at the moment of meeting? But that 
fine forgetfulness was surely impossible to Anthony 
the seaman directly after the wrangling interview with 
Fyne the emissary of an order of things which stops 
at the edge of the sea. How much he was disturbed 
I couldn't tell because I did not know what that im- 
petuous lover had had to listen to. 

"'Going to take the old fellow to sea with them,' 
I said. 'Well I really don't see what else they could 
have done with him. You told your brother-in-law 
what you thought of it? I wonder how he took 

"'Very improperly,' repeated Fyne. 'His manner 
was offensive, derisive, from the first. I don't mean 
he was actually rude in words. Hang it all, I am not a 
contemptible ass. But he was exulting at having got 
hold of a miserable girl.' 

"'It is pretty certain that she will be much less poor 
and miserable,' I murmured. 

"It looked as if the exultation of Captain Anthony 
had got on Fyne's nerves, ' I told the fellow very plainly 


that he was abominably selfish in this,' he affirmed un- 

'"You did! Selfish!' I said, rather taken aback. 
'But what if the girl thought that, on the contrary, he 
was most generous?' 

"What do you know about it?' growled Fyne. The 
rents and slashes of his solemnity were closing up grad- 
ually but it was going to be a surly solemnity. ' Gene- 
rosity! I am disposed to give it another name. No. 
Not folly,' he shot out at me as though I had meant to 
interrupt him. 'Still another. Something worse. 1 
need not tell you what it is,' he added with grim mean- 

"'Certainly. You needn't — unless you like,' I said 
blankly. Little Fyne had never interested me so much 
since the beginning of the de Barral-Anthony affair 
when I first perceived possibilities in him. The possi- 
bilities of dull men are exciting because when they 
happen they suggest legendary cases of 'possession' 
not exactly by the devil but, anyhow, by a strange 

"'I told him it was a shame,' said Fyne. 'Even 
if the girl did make eyes at him — but I think with you 
that she did not. Yes! A shame to take advantage 
of a girl's distress — a girl that does not love him in the 

"'You think it's so bad as that?' I said. 'Because 
you know I don't.' 

'"What can you think about it?' he retorted on me 
with a solemn stare. ' I go by her letter to my wife.' 

" 'Ah! that famous letter. But you haven't actually 
read it,' I said. 

'"No, but my wife told me. Of course it was a most 
improper sort of letter to write considering the circum- 
stances. It pained Mrs. Fyne to discover how thor-» 


oughly she had been misunderstood. But what is 
written is not all. It's what my wife could read between 
the lines. She says that the girl is really terrified at 

'"She had not much in life to give her any very 
special courage for it, or any great confidence in man- 
kind. That's very true. But this seems an exagger- 

" 'I should like to know what reasons you have to say 
that?' asked Fyne with offended solemnity. 'I really 
don't see any. But I had sufficient authority to tell my 
brother-in-law that if he thought he was going to do 
something chivalrous and fine he was mistaken. I can 
see very well that he will do everything she asks him to 
do — but, all the same, it is rather a pitiless transac- 

"For a moment I felt it might be so. Fyne caught 
sight of an approaching tram-car and stepped out on 
the road to meet it. 'Have you a more compassionate 
scheme ready?' I called after him. He made no 
answer, clambered on to the rear platform, and only 
then looked back. We exchanged a perfunctory wave 
of the hand. We also looked at each other, he rather 
angrily, I fancy, and I with wonder. I may also men- 
tion that it was for the last time. From that day I 
never set eyes on the Fynes. As usual the unexpected 
happened to me. It had nothing to do with Flora de 
Barral. The fact is that I went away. My call was 
not like her call. Mine was not urged on me with 
passionate vehemence or tender gentleness made all the 
finer and more compelling by the allurements of gene- 
rosity which is a virtue as mysterious as any other but 
having a glamour of its own. No, it was just a prosaic 
offer of employment on rather good terms which, with 
a sudden sense of having wasted my time on shore long 


enough, I accepted without misgivings. And once 
started out of my indolence I went, as my habit was, 
very, very far away and for a long, long time. Which 
is another proof of my indolence. How far Flora went 
I can't say. But I will tell you my idea: my idea is 
that she went as far as she was able — as far as she could 
bear it — as far as she had to. . . „" 

part n 




I have said that the story of Flora de Barral was im- 
parted to me in stages. At this stage I did not see 
Marlow for some time. At last, one evening rather 
early, very soon after dinner, he turned up in my rooms. 

I had been waiting for his call primed with a remark 
which had not occurred to me till after he hadgoneaway. 

"I say," I tackled him at once, "how can you be cer- 
tain that Flora de Barral ever went to sea? After all, 
the wife of the Captain of the Ferndale — 'the lady that 
mustn't be disturbed' of the old ship-keeper — may 
not have been Flora." 

"Well, I do know," he said, "if only because I have 
been keeping in touch with Mr. Powell." 

"You have!" I cried. "This is the first I hear of it. 
And since when?" 

"Why, since the first day. You went up to town 
leaving me in the inn. I slept ashore. In the morning 
Mr. Powell came in for breakfast; and after the first 
awkwardness of meeting a man you have been yarning 
with over-night had worn off, we discovered a liking 
for each other." 

As I had discovered the fact of their mutual liking 
before either of them, I was not surprised. 

"And so you kept in touch," I said. 

"It was not so very difficult. As he was always 
knocking about the river, I hired Dingle's sloop-rigged 
tbree-tonner to be more on an equality, Powell was 


friendly but elusive. I don't think he ever wanted to 
avoid me. But it is a fact that he used to disappear 
out of the river in a very mysterious manner sometimes. 
A man may land anywhere and bolt inland — but what 
about his five-ton cutter? You can't carry that in 
your hand like a suit-case. 

"Then as suddenly he would reappear in the river, 
after one had given him up. I did not like to be beaten. 
That's why I hired Dingle's decked boat. There was 
just the accommodation in her to sleep a man and a 
dog. But I had no dog-friend to invite. Fyne's dog 
who saved Flora de Barral's life is the last dog-friend 
I had. I was rather lonely cruising about; but that, 
too, on the river has its charm, sometimes. I chased 
the mystery of the vanishing Powell dreamily, looking 
about me at the ships, thinking of the girl Flora, of 
life's chances — and, do you know, it was very simple." 

"What was very simple?" I asked innocently. 

"The mystery." 

"They are generally that," I said. 

Marlow eyed me for a moment in a peculiar manner. 

"Well, I have discovered the mystery of Powell's 
disappearances. The fellow used to run into one of 
these narrow tidal creeks on the Essex shore. These 
creeks are so inconspicuous that till I had studied the 
chart pretty carefully I did not know of their existence. 
One afternoon, I made out Powell's boat, heading into 
the shore. By the time I got close to the mud-flat 
his craft had disappeared inland. But I could see the 
mouth of the creek by then. The tide being on the 
turn I took the risk of getting stuck in the mud sud- 
denly and headed in. All I had to guide me was the 
top of the roof of some sort of small building. I got in 
more by good luck" than by good management. The 
sun had set some time before; my boat glided in a sort 


of winding ditch between two low grassy banks; on 
both sides of me was the flatness of the Essex marsh, 
perfectly still. All I saw moving was a heron; he was 
flying low, and disappeared in the murk. Before 
I had gone half a mile, I was up with the building the 
roof of which I had seen from the river. It looked like 
a small barn. A row of piles driven into the soft bank 
in front of it and supporting a few planks made a sort 
of wharf. All this was black in the falling dusk, and I 
could just distinguish the whitish ruts of a cart-track 
stretching over the marsh towards the higher land, far 
away. Not a sound was to be heard. Against the 
low streak of light in the sky I could see the mast of 
Powell's cutter moored to the bank some twenty yards, 
no more, beyond that black barn or whatever it was. 
I hailed him with a loud shout. Got no answer. After 
making fast my boat just astern, I walked along the 
bank to hav*e a look at Powell's. Being so much bigger 
than mine she was aground already. Her sails were 
furled; the slide of her scuttle hatch was closed and 
padlocked. Powell was gone. He had walked off into 
that dark, still marsh somewhere. I had not seen a 
single house anywhere near; there did not seem to be 
any human habitation for miles; and now as darkness 
fell denser over the land I couldn't see the glimmer of a 
single light. However, I supposed that there must be 
some village or hamlet not very far away; or only one 
of these mysterious little inns one comes upon some- 
times in most unexpected and lonely places. 

"The stillness was oppressive. I went back to my 
boat, made some coffee over a spirit-lamp, devoured a 
few biscuits, and stretched myself aft, to smoke and 
gaze at the stars. The earth was a mere shadow, form- 
less and silent, and empty, till a bullock turned up from 
somewhere, quite shadowy too. He came smartly 


to the very edge of the bank as though he meant to 
'step on board, stretched his muzzle right over my boat, 
blew heavily once, and walked off contemptuously 
into the darkness from which he had come. I had not 
expected a call from a bullock, though a moment's 
thought would have shown me that there must be lots 
of cattle and sheep on that marsh. Then everything 
became still as before. I might have imagined myself 
arrived on a desert island. In fact, as I reclined smok- 
ing, a sense of absolute loneliness grew on me. And 
just as it had become intense, very abruptly and with- 
out any preliminary sound I heard firm, quick footstep's 
on the little wharf. Somebody coming along the cart- 
track had just stepped at a swinging gait on to the 
planks. That somebody could only have been Mr. 
Powell. Suddenly he stopped short, having made out 
that there were two masts alongside the bank where he 
had left only one. Then he came on silent on the grass. 
When I spoke to him he was astonished. 

"'Who would have thought of seeing you here!' he 
exclaimed, after returning my good evening. 

" ' I told him I had run in for company. It was rigor- 
ously true. 

"'You knew I was here?' he exclaimed. 

"'Of course,' I said. 'I tell you I came in for com- 

"He is really a good fellow," went on Marlow. "And 
his capacity for astonishment is quickly exhausted, it 
seems. It was in the most matter-of-fact manner that 
he said, 'Come on board of me, then; I have here enough 
supper for two.' He was holding a bulky parcel in 
the crook of his arm. I did not wait to be asked twice, 
as you may guess. His cutter has a very neat little 
cabin, quite big enough for two men not only to sleep 
but to sit and smoke in. We left the scuttle wide 


open, of course. As to his provisions for supper, they 
were not of a luxurious kind. He complained that the 
shops in the village were miserable. There was a big 
village within a mile and a half. It struck me he had 
been very long doing his shopping; but naturally I made 
no remark. I didn't want to talk at all except for the 
purpose of setting him going." 

"And did you set him going?" I asked. 

"I did," said Marlow, composing his features into an 
impenetrable expression which somehow assured me of 
his success better than an air of triumph could have 

"You made him talk?" I said after a silence. 

"Yes, I made him . . . about himself." 

"And to the point?" 

**If you mean by this," said Marlow, "that it was 
about the voyage of the Ferndale, then again, yes. I 
brought him to talk about that voyage, which, by the by, 
was not the first voyage of Flora de Barral. The man 
himself, as I told you, is simple, and his faculty of won- 
der not very great. He's one of those people who form 
no theories about facts. Straightforward people sel- 
dom do. Neither have they much penetration. But in 
this case it did not matter. I — we — have already the 
inner knowledge. We know the history of Flora de 
Barral. We know something of Captain Anthony. 
We have the secret of the situation. The man was 
intoxicated with the pity and tenderness of his part. 
Oh, yes! Intoxicated is not too strong a word; for you 
know that love and desire take many disguises. I be- 
lieve that the girl had been frank with him, with the 
frankness of women to whom perfect frankness is im- 
possible, because so much of their safety depends on 
iudicious reticences. I am not indulging in cheap 


sneers. There is necessity in these things. And more- 
over she could not have spoken with a certain voice 
in the face of his impetuosity, because she did not have 
time to understand either the state of her feelings, or 
the precise nature of what she was doing. 

"Had she spoken ever so clearly he was, I take it, 
too elated to hear her distinctly, I don't mean to 
imply that he was a fool. Oh, dear no ! But he had 
no training in the usual conventions, and we must re- 
member that he had no experience whatever of women. 
He could only have an ideal conception of his position. 
An ideal is often but a flaming vision of reality. 

"To him enters Fyne, wound up, if I may express my- 
self so irreverently, wound up to a high pitch by his 
wife's interpretation of the girl's letter. He enters 
with his talk of meanness and cruelty, like a bucket 
of water on the flame. Clearly a shock. But the ef- 
fects of a bucket of water are diverse. They depend on 
the kind of flame. A mere blaze of dry straw, of 
course . . . but there can be no question of straw 
there. Anthony of the Ferndale was not, could not 
have been, a straw-stuffed specimen of a man. There 
are flames a bucket of water sends leaping sky-high. 

"We may well wonder what happened when, after 
Fyne had left him, the hesitating girl went up at last 
and opened the door of that room where our man, I 
am certain, was not extinguished. Oh, no! Nor cold; 
whatever else he might have been. 

"It is conceivable he might have cried at her in the 
first moment of humiliation, of exasperation, 'Oh, it's 
you! Why are you here? If I am so odious to you 
that you must write to my sister to say so, I give you 
back your word.' But then, don't you see, it could not 
have been that. I have the practical certitude that 
soon afterwards they went together in a hansom to 


see the ship — as agreed. That was my reason for say- 
ing that Flora de Barral did go to sea. ..." 

"Yes. It seems conclusive," I agreed. "But even 
without that — if, as you seem to think, the very desola- 
tion of that girlish figure had a sort of perversely seduc- 
tive charm, making its way through his compassion 
to his senses (and everything is possible) — then such 
words could not have been spoken." 

"They might have escaped him involuntarily," 
observed Marlow. "However, a plain fact settles it. 
They went off together to see the ship." 

"Do you conclude from this that nothing whatever 
was said?" I inquired. 

"I should have liked to see the first meeting of their 
glances upstairs there," mused Marlow. "And per- 
haps nothing was said. But no man comes out of such 
a 'wrangle' (as Fyne called it) without showing some 
traces of it. And you may be sure that a girl so bruised 
all over would feel the slightest touch of anything re- 
sembling coldness. She was mistrustful; she could not 
be otherwise; for the energy of evil is so much more forc- 
ible than the energy of good that she could not help 
looking still upon her abominable governess as an au- 
thority. How could one have expected her to throw 
off the unholy prestige of that long domination? She 
could not help believing what she had been told; that 
she was in some mysterious way odious and unlovable. 
It was cruelly true— to her. The oracle of so many 
years had spoken finally. Only other people did not 
find her out at once. . . . I would not go so far as to 
say she believed it altogether. That would be hardly 
possible. But then haven't the most flattered, the 
most conceited of us their moments of doubt? Haven't 
they ? Well, I don't know. There may be lucky beings 
in this world unable to believe any evil of themselves. 


V .>- 

For my own part I'll tell you that once, many years 
ago now, it came to my knowledge that a fellow I had 
been mixed up with in a certain transaction — a clever 
fellow whom I really despised — was going around telling 
people that I was a consummate hypocrite. He could 
know nothing of it. It suited his humour to say so. I 
had given him no ground for that particular calumny. 
Yet to this day there are moments when it comes into 
my mind, and involuntarily I ask myself, 'What if it 
were true?' It's absurd, but it has on one or two oc- 
casions nearly affected my conduct. And yet I was not 
an impressionable, ignorant young girl. I had taken 
the exact measure of the fellow's utter worthlessness 
long before. He had never been for me a person of 
prestige and power, like that awful governess to Flora 
de Barral. See the might of suggestion? We live at 
the mercy of a malevolent word. A sound, a men 
disturbance of the air, sinks into our very soul some- 
times, ilora de BarraJ had been more astounded than 
convinced by the first impetuosity of Roderick Anthony. 
She let herself be carried along by a mysterious force 
which her person had called into being, as her father 
had been carried away out of his depth by the unex- 
pected power of successful advertising. 

"They went on board that morning. The Ferndale 
had just come to her loading berth. The only living 
creature on board was the ship-keeper — whether the 
same who had been described to us by Mr. Powell, or 
another, I don't know. Possiblysome other man. He, 
looking over the side, saw, in his own words, 'the cap- 
tain come sailing round the corner of the nearest cargo- 
shed, in company with a girl.' He lowered the accom- 
modation ladder down on to the jetty ..." 

"How do you know all this?" I interrupted. 
, Marlow interjected an imDatient. — 


"You shall see by and by. . . . Flora went up 
first, got down on deck and stood stock-still till the 
captain took her by the arm and led her aft. The ship- 
keeper let them into the saloon. He had the keys of all 
the cabins, and stumped in after them. The captain 
ordered him to open all the doors, every blessed door; 
state-rooms, passages, pantry, fore-cabin — and then 
sent him away. 

"The Ferndale had magnificent accommodation. At 
the end of a passage leading from the quarter-deck there 
Was a long saloon, its sumptuosity slightly tarnished 
perhaps, but having a grand air of roominess and com- 
fort. The harbour carpets were down, the swinging 
lamps hung, and everything in its place, even to the 
silver on the sideboard. Two large stern cabins opened 
out of it, one on each side of the rudder casing. These 
two cabins communicated through a small bathroom 
between them, and one was fitted up as the captain's 
state-room. The other was vacant, and furnished with 
arm-chairs and a round table, more like a room on 
shore, except for the long curved settee following the 
shape of the ship's stern. In a dim inclined mirror, 
Flora caught sight down to the waist of a pale-faced 
girl in a white straw hat trimmed with roses, distant, 
shadowy, as if immersed in water, and was surprised 
to recognize herself in those surroundings. They 
seemed to her arbitrary, bizarre, strange. Captain 
Anthony moved on, and she followed him. He showed 
her the other cabins. He talked all the time loudly 
in a voice she seemed to have known extremely well for 
a long time; and yet, she reflected, she had not heard 
it often in her life. What he was saying she did not 
quite follow. He was speaking of comparatively in- 
different things in a rather moody tone, but she felt it 
round her like a caress. And when he stopped she could 


hear, alarming in the sudden silence, the precipitated 
beating of her heart. 

" The ship-keeper dodged about the quarter-deck, out 
of hearing, and trying to keep out of sight. At the 
same time, taking advantage of the open doors with 
skill and prudence, he could see the captain and 'that 
girl' the captain had brought aboard. The captain 
was showing her round very thoroughly. Through 
the whole length of the passage, far away aft in the 
perspective of the saloon the ship-keeper had interest- 
ing glimpses of them as they went in and out of the 
various cabins, crossing from side to side, remaining 
invisible for a time in one or another of the state-rooms, 
and then reappearing again in the distance. The 
girl, always following the captain, had her sunshade in 
her hands. Mostly she would hang her head, but now 
and then she would look up. They had a lot to say 
to each other and seemed to forget they weren't alone 
in the ship. He saw the captain put his hand on her 
shoulder, and was preparing himself with a certain zest 
for what might follow, when the 'old man' seemed to 
recollect himself, and came striding down all the length 
of the saloon. At this move the ship-keeper promptly 
dodged out of sight, as you may believe, and heard the 
captain slam the inner door of the passage. After 
that disappointment the ship-keeper waited resentfully 
for them to clear out of the ship. It happened much 
sooner than he had expected. The girl walked out 
on deck first. As before she did not look round. She 
didn't look at anything; and she seemed to be in such 
a hurry to get ashore that she made for the gangway 
and started down the ladder without waiting for the 

"What struck the shipkeeper most was the absent, 
Unseeing expression of the captain, striding after the 


giri. He passed him, the ship-keeper, without notice, 
without an order, without so much as a look. The 
captain had never done so before. Always had a nod 
and a pleasant word for a man. Frpm this slight the 
ship-keeper drew a conclusion unfavourable to the 
strange girl. He gave them time to get down on the 
wharf before crossing the deck to steal one more look 
at the pair over the rail. The captain took hold of 
the girl's arm just before a couple of railway trucks 
drawn by a horse came rolling along and hid them from 
the ship-keeper's sight for good. 

"Next day, when the chief mate joined the ship, he 
told him the tale of the visit, and expressed himself 
about the girl 'who had got hold cf the captain' dis- 
paragingly. She didn't look healthy, he explained. 
'Shabby clothes, too,' he added spitefully. 

"The mate was very much interested. He had been 
with Anthony for several years, and had won for himself 
in the course of many long voyages, a footing of famili- 
arity, which was to be expected with a man of Anthony's 
character. But in that slowly grown intimacy of the 
sea, which in its duration and solitude had its unguarded 
moments, no words had passed, even of the most casual, 
to prepare him for the vision of his captain associated 
with any kind of girl. His impression had been that 
women did not exist for Captain Anthony. Exhibiting 
himself with a girl ! A girl ! What did he want with a 
girl? Bringing her on board and showing her round 
the cabin! That was really a little bit too much. 
Captain Anthony ought to have known better. 

"Franklin (the chief mate's name was Franklin) 
felt disappointed; almost disillusioned. Silly thing 
to do! Here was a confounded old ship-keeper set 
talking. He snubbed the ship-keeper, and tried to 
think of that insignificant bit of foolishness no more; 


for it diminished Captain Anthony in his eyes of a 
jealously devoted subordinate. 

"Franklin was over forty; his mother was still alive. 
She stood in the forefront of all women for him, just as 
Captain Anthony stood in the forefront of all men. 
We may suppose that these groups were not very large. 
He had gone to sea at a very early age. The feelings 
which caused these two people to partly eclipse the 
rest of mankind were of course not similar; though in 
time he had acquired the conviction that he was 
'taking care' of them both. The 'old lady' of course 
had to be looked after as long as she lived. In regard to 
Captain Anthony, he used to say that: why should he 
leave him? It wasn't likely that he would come across 
a better sailor or a better man or a more comfortable 
ship. As to trying to better himself in the way of pro- 
motion, commands were not the sort of thing one picked 
up in the streets, and when it came to that, Captain 
Anthony was as likely to give him a lift on occasion as 
any one in the world. 

"From Mr. Powell's description Franklin was a short, 
thick, black-haired man, bald on the top. His head 
sunk between the shoulders, his staring prominent 
eyes and a florid colour gave him a rather apoplectic 
appearance. In repose, his congested face had a humor- 
ously melancholy expression. ' 

"The ship-keeper having given him up all the keys 
and having been chased forward with the admonition 
to mind his own business and not to chatter about what 
did not concern him, Mr. Franklin went under the 
poop. He opened one door after another; and, in the 
saloon, in the captain's state-room and everywhere, he 
stared anxiously as if expecting to see on the bulk- 
heads, on the deck, in the air, something unusual — sign, 
mark, emanation, shadow — he hardly knew what — some 


subtle change wrought by the passage of a girl. But 
there was nothing. He entered the unoccupied stern 
cabin and spent some time there unscrewing the two 
stern ports. In the absence of all material evidences 
his uneasiness was passing away. With a last glance 
round he came out and found himself in the presence 
of his captain advancing from the other end of the 

"Franklin, at once, looked for the girl. She wasn't 
to be seen. The captain came up quickly. 'Oh! you 
are here, Mr. Franklin.' And the mate said, 'I was 
giving a little air to the place, sir.' Then the captain, 
his hat pulled down over his eyes, laid his stick on the 
table and asked in his kind way: 'How did you find 
your mother, Franklin?' — 'The old lady's first-rate, sir, 
thank you.' And then they had nothing to say to each 
other. It was a strange and disturbing feeling for 
Franklin. He, just back from leave, the ship just come 
to her loading berth, the captain just come on board, 
and apparently nothing to say! The several questions 
heliad been anxious to ask as to various things which 
had to be done had slipped out of his mind. He, too, 
felt as though he had nothing to say . 

"The captain, picking up his stick off the table, 
marched into his state-room and shut the door after 
him. Franklin remained still for a moment and then 
started slowly to go on deck. But before he had time 
to reach the other end of the saloon he heard himself 
called by name. He turned round. The captain was 
staring from the doorway of his state-room. Franklin 
said, 'Yes, sir.' But the captain, silent, leaned a little 
forward grasping the door handle. So he, Franklin, 
walked aft keeping his eyes on him. When he had 
come up quite close he said again, 'Yes, sir?' interroga- 
tively Still silence. The mate didn't like to be stared 


at in that manner, a manner quite new in Ms captain, 
with a defiant and self-conscious stare, like a man 
who feels ill and dares you to notice it. Franklin 
gazed at his captain, felt that there was something 
wrong, and in his simplicity voiced his feelings by asking 
point-blank — 

'"What's wrong, sir?' 

"The captain gave a slight start, and the character 
of his stare changed to a sort of sinister surprise. 
Franklin grew very uncomfortable, but the captain 
asked negligently — 

"What makes you think that there's something 

" ' I can't say exactly. You don't look quite yourself, 
sir,' Franklin owned up. 

"'You seem to have a confoundedly piercing eye,' 
said the captain in such an aggressive tone that Franklin 
was moved to defend himself. 

'"We have been together now over six years, sir, so 
I suppose I know you a bit by this time. I could see 
there was something wrong directly you came on 

'"Mr. Franklin,' said the captain, 'we have been 
more than six years together, it is true, but I didn't 
know you for a reader of faces. You are not a correct 
reader though. It's very far from being wrong. You 
understand? As far from being wrong as it can very 
well be. It ought to teach you not to make rash 
surmises. You should leave that to the shore people, 
They are great hands at spying out something wrong. 
I dare say they know what they have made of the world. 
A dam' poor job they make of it, and that's plain. 
The world is a confoundedly ugly place, Mr. Franklin. 
You don't know anything of it? Well — no, we sailors 
don't. Only now and then one of us runs against some- 


thing cruel or underhand, enough to make your hair 
stand on end. And when you do see a piece of their 
wickedness you find that to set it right is not so easy 
as it looks. . . . Oh! I called you back to tell you 
that there will be a lot of workmen, joiners and all that, 
sent down on board first thing to-morrow morning to 
start making alterations in the cabin. You will see 
to it that they don't loaf. There isn't much time.' 

"Franklin was impressed by this unexpected lecture 
upon the wickedness of the solid world surrounded by 
the salt, uncorruptible waters on which he and his cap- 
tain had dwelt all their lives in happy innocence. What 
he could not understand was why it should have been 
delivered, and what connection it could have with such a 
matter as the alterations to be carried out in the cabin. 
The work did not seem to him to be called for in such a 
hurry. What was the use of altering anything? It 
was a very good accommodation, spacious, well- 
distributed, on a rather old-fashioned plan, and with its 
decorations somewhat tarnished. But a dab of var- 
nish, a touch of gilding here and there, was all that 
was necessary. As to comfort, it could not be improved 
by any alterations. He resented the notion of change; 
but he said dutifully that he would keep his eye on the 
workmen if the captain would only let him know what 
was the nature of the work he had ordered to be done. 

" ' You'll find a note of it on this table. I'll leave it 
for you as I go ashore,' said Captain Anthony hastily. 
Franklin thought there was no more to hear, and made 
a movement to leave the saloon. But the captain 
continued after a slight pause, 'You will be surprised, 
no doubt, when you look at it. There'll be a good many 
alterations. It's on account of a lady coming with us. 
I am going to get married, Mr. Franklin!' 



"You remember," went on Marlow, "how I feared 
that Mr. Powell's want of experience would stand in his 
way of appreciating the unusual. The unusual I had 
in my mind was something of a very subtle sort: the 
unusual in marital relations. I may well have doubted 
the capacity of a young man too much concerned with 
the creditable performance of his professional duties 
to observe what in the nature of things is not easily 
observable in itself, and still less so under the special 
circumstances. In the majority of ships a second officer 
has not many points of contact with the captain's wife. 
He sits at the same table with her at meals, generally 
speaking; he may now and then be addressed more or 
less kindly on insignificant matters, and have the op- 
portunity to show her some small attentions on deck. 
And that is all. Under such conditions, signs can be 
seen only by a sharp and practised eye. I am alluding 
now to troubles which are subtle often to the extent 
of not being understood by the very hearts they devas- 
tate or uplift. 

" Yes, Mr. Powell, whom the chance of his name had 
thrown upon the floating stage of that tragi-comedy, 
would have been perfectly useless for my purpose if 
the unusual of an obvious kind had not aroused his 
attention from the first. 

"We know how he joined that ship so suddenly 
offered to his anxious desire to make a real start in his 



profession. He had come on board breathless with the 
hurried winding up of his shore affairs, accompanied 
by two horrible night-birds, escorted by a dock police- 
man on the make, received by an asthmatic shadow 
of a ship-keeper, warned not to make a noise in the 
darkness of the passage because the captain and his 
wife were already on board. That in itself was al- 
ready somewhat unusual. Captains and their wives do 
not, as a rule, join a moment sooner than is necessary. 
They prefer to spend the last moments with their friends 
and relations. A ship in one of London's older docks 
with their restrictions as to lights and so on is not the 
place for a happy evening. Still, as the tide served at 
six in the morning, one could understand them coming 
on board the evening before. 

"Just then young Powell felt as if anybody ought to 
be glad enough to be quit of the shore. We know he 
was an orphan from a very early age, without brothers 
or sisters — no near relations of any kind, I believe, ex- 
cept that aunt who had quarrelled with his father. No 
affections stood in the way of the quiet satisfaction with 
which he thought that now all the worries were over, 
that there was nothing before him but duties, that he 
knew what he would have to do as soon as the dawn broke 
and for a long succession qf days. A most soothing 
certitude. He enjoyed it in the dark, stretched out in 
his bunk with his new blankets pulled over him. Some 
clock ashore beyond the dock-gates struck two. And 
then he heard nothing more, because he went off into 
a light sleep from which he woke up with a start. He 
had not taken his clothes off, it was hardly worth while. 
He jumped up and went on deck. 

"The morning was clear, colourless, grey overhead; 
the dock like a sheet of darkling glass crowded with 
upside-down reflections of warehouses, of hulls and 


masts of silent ships. Rare figures moved here and 
there on the distant quays. A knot of men stood along- 
side with clothes-bags and wooden chests at their feet. 
Others were coming down the lane between tall, blind 
walls, surrounding a hand-cart loaded with more bags 
and boxes. It was the crew of the Ferndale. They be- 
gan to come on board. He scanned their faces as they 
passed forward filling the roomy deck with the shuffle 
of their footsteps and the murmur of voices, like the 
awakening to life of a world about to be launched into 

"Far away down the clear glassy stretch in the middle 
of the long dock, Mr. Powell watched the tugs coming 
in quietly through the open gates. A subdued firm 
voice behind him interrupted this contemplation. It 
was Franklin, the thick chief mate, who was addressing 
him with a watchful appraising stare of his prominent 
black eyes: 'You'd better take a couple of these chaps 
with you and look out for her aft. We are going to 
cast off.' 

" ' Yes, sir,' Powell said with proper alacrity; but for a 
moment they remained looking at each other fixedly. 
Something like a faint smile altered the set of the chief 
mate's lips just before he moved off forward with his 
brisk step, 

"Mr. Powell, getting up* on the poop, touched his cap 
to Captain Anthony, who was there alone. He tells 
me that it was only then that he saw his captain for the 
first time. The day before, in the shipping office, what 
with the bad light and his excitement at this berth 
obtained as if by a brusque and unscrupulous miracle, 
did not count. He had then seemed to him much 
older and heavier. He was surprised at the lithe figure, 
broad of shoulder, narrow at the hips, the fire of the 
:deep-set eyes, the springiness of the walk. The cap- 


tain gave him a steady stare, nodded slightly, and went 
on pacing the poop with an air of not being aware of 
what was going on, his head rigid, his movements rapid. 

"Powell stole several glances at him with a curiosity 
very natural under the circumstances. He wore a short 
grey jacket and a grey cap. In the light of the dawn, 
growing more limpid rather than brighter, Powell 
noticed the slightly sunken cheeks under the trimmed 
beard, the perpendicular fold on the forehead, something 
hard and set about the mouth. 

"It was too early yet for the work to have begun in 
the dock. The water gleamed placidly, no movement 
anywhere on the long straight lines of the quays, no 
one about to be seen except the few dock hands busy 
alongside the Ferndale, knowing their work, mostly 
silent or exchanging a few words in low tones as if 
they, too, had been aware of that lady 'who mustn't 
be disturbed.' The Ferndale was the only ship to leave 
that tide. The others seemed still asleep, without a 
sound, and only here and there a figure, coming up 
on the forecastle, leaned on the rail to watch the pro- 
ceedings idly. Without trouble and fuss and almost 
without a sound was the Ferndale leaving the land, as if 
stealing away. Even the tugs, now with their engines 
stopped, were approaching her without a ripple, the 
burly-looking paddle-boat sheering forward, while the 
other, a screw, smaller and of slender shape, made for 
her quarter so gently that she did not divide the smooth 
water, but seemed to glide on its surface as if on a sheet 
of plate-glass, a man in her bow, the master at the wheel 
visible only from the waist upwards above the white 
screen of the bridge, both of them so still-eyed as to 
fascinate young Powell into curious self-forgetfulness 
and immobility. He was steeped, sunk in the general 
quietness, remembering the statement 'she's a lady 


that mustn't be disturbed,' and repeating to himself 
idly: 'No. She won't be disturbed. She won't be dis- 
turbed.' Then the first ioud words of that morning 
breaking that strange hush of departure with a sharp 
hail: 'Look out for that line there,' made him start. 
The line whizzed past his head, one of the sailors aft 
caught it, and there was an end to the fascination, to 
the quietness of spirit which had stolen on him at the 
very moment of departure. From that moment till 
two hours afterwards, when the ship was brought up 
in one of the lower reaches of the Thames of an ap- 
parently uninhabited shore, near some sort of inlet 
where nothing but two anchored barges flying a red 
flag could be seen, Powell was too busy to think of the 
lady 'that mustn't be disturbed,' or of his captain — 
or of anything else unconnected with his immediate 
duties. In fact, he had no occasion to go on the poop 
or even look that way much; but while the ship was 
about to anchor, casting his eyes in that direction, he 
received an absurd impression- that his captain (he was 
up there, of course) was sitting on both sides of the 
aftermost skylight at once. He was too occupied 
to reflect on this curious delusion, this phenomenon 
of seeing double as though he had had a drop too much. 
He only smiled at himself. 

"As often happens after a grey daybreak the sun 
had risen in a warm and glorious splendour above the 
smooth, immense gleam of the enlarged estuary. Wisps 
of mist floated like trails of luminous dust, and in the 
dazzling reflections of water and vapour, the shores 
had the murky, semi-transparent darkness of shadows 
cast mysteriously from below. Powell, who had sailed 
out of London all his young seaman's life, told me that 
it was then, in a moment of entranced vision an hour 
or so after sunrise, that the river was revealed to him 


for all time, like a fair face often seen before, which 
is suddenly perceived to be the expression of an inner 
and unsuspected beauty, of that something unique and 
only its own which rouses a passion of wonder and 
fidelity and an unappeasable memory of its charm. 
The hull of the Ferndale, swung head to the eastward, 
caught the light, her tall spars and rigging steeped in 
a bath of red-gold, from the water-line full of glitter 
to the trucks slight and gleaming against the delicate 
expanse of the blue. 

"Time we had a mouthful to eat,' said a voice at his 
side. It was Mr. Franklin, the chief mate, with his 
head sunk between his shoulders, and . melancholy 
eyes. 'Let the men have their breakfast, bo'sun,' he 
went on, 'and have the fire out in the galley in half 
an hour at the latest, so that we can call these barges 
of explosives alongside. Come along, young man. I 
don't know your name. Haven't seen the captain, 
to speak to, since yesterday afternoon when he rushed 
off to pick up a second mate somewhere. How did he 
get you?' 

"Young Powell, a little shy notwithstanding the 
friendly disposition of the other, answered him smilingly, 
aware somehow that there was something marked in 
this inquisitiveness, natural, after all — something anxi- 
ous. His name was Powell, and he was put in the way 
of this berth by Mr. Powell, the shipping master. He 

"'Ah, I see. Well, you have been smart in getting 
ready. The ship-keeper, before he went away, told 
me you joined at one o'clock. I didn't sleep on board 
last night. Not I. There was a time when I never 
cared to leave this ship for more than a couple of 
hours in the evening, even while in London, but now, 
since * 


"He checked himself with a roll of his prominent eyes 
towards that youngster, that stranger. Meantime, 
he was leading the way across the quarter-deck under 
the poop into the long passage with the door of the 
saloon at the far end. It was shut. But Mr. Franklin 
did not go so far. After passing the pantry he opened 
suddenly a door on the left of the passage, to Powell's 
great surprise. 

"'Our mess-room,' he said, entering a small cabin 
painted white, bare, lighted from part of the foremost 
skylight, and furnished only with a table and two settees 
with movable backs. 'That surprises you? Well, it 
'sn't usual. And it wasn't so in this ship either, before. 
It's only since ' 

"He checked himself again. 'Yes. Here we shall 
feed, you and I, facing each other for the next twelve 
months or more — God knows how much more! The 
bo'sun keeps the deck at meal-times in fine weather.' 
" "He talked not exactly wheezing, but like a man 
whose breath is somewhat short, and the spirit (young 
Powell could not help thinking) embittered by some 
mysterious grievance. , 

" There was enough of the unusual there to be recog- 
nized even by Powell's inexperience. The officers 
kept out of the cabin against the custom of the service, 
and then this sort of accent in the mate's talk. Franklin 
did not seem to expect conversational ease from the 
new second mate. He made several remarks about 
the old, deploring the accident. Awkward. Very 
awkward this thing to happen on. the very eve of 

"Collar-bone and arm broken,' he sighed. 'Sad, 
very sad. Did you notice if the captain was at all 
affected? Eh? Must have been.' 

"Before this congested face, these globular eyes 


turned yearningly upon him, young Powell (one must 
keep in mind he was but a youngster then) who could 
not remember any signs of visible grief, confessed with 
an embarrassed laugh that, owing to the suddenness of 
this lucky chance coming to him, he was not in a con- 
dition to notice the state of other people. 

" 'I was so pleased to get a ship at last,' he murmured, 
further disconcerted by the sort of pent-up gravity in 
Mr. Franklin's aspect. 

'"One man's food another man's poison,' the mate 
remarked. 'That holds true beyond mere victuals. I 
suppose it didn't occur to you that it was a dam' poor 
way for a good man to be knocked out.' 

'"Mr. Powell admitted openly that he had not 
thought of that. He was ready to admit that it was 
very reprehensible of him. But Franklin had no in- 
tention apparently to moralize. He did not fall silent 
either. His further remarks were to the effect that 
there had been a time when Captain Anthony would 
have showed more than enough concern for the least 
thing happening to one of his officers. Yes, there had 
been a time! 

"'And mind,' he went on, laying down suddenly a 
half-consumed piece of bread and butter and raising his 
voice, 'poor Mathews was the second man the longest 
on board. I was the first. He joined a month later — 
about the same time as the steward by a few days. The 
bo'sun and the carpenter came the voyage after. 
Steady men. Still here. No good man need ever have 
thought of leaving the Ferndale unless he were a fool. 
Some good men are fools. Don't know when they 
are well off. I mean the best of good men; men that 
you would do anything for. They go on for years, 
then all of a sudden — — ' 

"Our young friend listened to" the mate with a queer 


sense of discomfort growing on him. For it was as 
though Mr. Franklin were thinking aloud, and putting 
him into the delicate position of an unwilling eaves- 
dropper. But there was in the mess-room another 
listener. It was the steward, who had come in carry- 
ing a tin coffee-pot with a long handle, and stood 
quietly by: a man with a middle-aged, sallow face, 
long features, heavy eyelids, a soldierly grey moustache. 
His body encased in a short black jacket with narrow 
sleeves, his long legs in very tight trousers, made up an 
agile, youthful, slender figure. He moved forward 
suddenly, and interrupted the mate's monologue. 

" 'More coffee, Mr. Franklin? Nice fresh lot. Piping 
hot. I am going to give breakfast to the saloon di- 
rectly, and the cook is raking his fire out. Now's your 

"The mate who, on account of his peculiar build, 
could not turn his head freely, twisted his thick trunk 
slightly, and ran his black eyes in the corners towards 
the steward. 

'"And is the precious pair of them out?' he growled. 

"The steward, pouring out the coffee into the mate's 
cup, muttered moodily but distinctly: 'The lady wasn't 
when I was laying the table.' 

"Powell's ears were fine enough to detect something 
hostile in this reference to the captain's wife. For of 
what other person could they be speaking? The stew- 
ard added with a gloomy sort of fairness: 'But she will 
be before I bring the dishes in. She never gives that 
sort of trouble. That she doesn't.' 

"'No. Not in that way,' Mr. Franklin agreed, and 
then both he and the steward, after glancing at Powell — 
the stranger to the ship — said nothing more. 

"But this had been enough to rouse his curiosity. 
Curiosity is natural to man. Of course it was not a 


malevolent curiosity which, if not exactly natural, is to 
be met fairly frequently in men and perhaps more fre- 
quently in women — especially if a woman be in ques- 
tion; and that woman under a cloud, in a manner of 
speaking. For under a cloud Flora de Barral was 
fated to be even at sea. Yes. That sort of darkness 
which attends a woman for whom there is no clear place 
in the world hung over her. Yes. Even at sea! 

"And this is the pathos of being a woman. A man 
can struggle to get a place for himself or perish. But 
a woman's part is passive, say what you like, and shuffle 
the facts of the world as you may, hinting at lack of 
energy, of wisdom, of courage. As a matter of fact, 
almost all women have all that — of their own kind. 
But they are not made for attack. Wait they must, 
I am speaking here of women who are really women. 
And it's no use talking of opportunities, either, I know 
that some of them do talk of it. But not the genuine 
women. Those know better. Nothing can beat a true 
woman for a clear vision of reality; I would say a 
cynical vision if I were not afraid of wounding your 
chivalrous feelings — for which, by the by, women 
are not so grateful as you may think, to fellows of your 
kind. ..." 

"Upon my word, Marlow," I cried, "what are you 
flying out at me for like this? I wouldn't use an ill- 
sounding word about women, but what right have you 
to imagine that I am looking for gratitude?" 

Marlow raised a soothing hand. 

" There ! There ! I take back the ill-sounding word, 
with the remark, though, that cynicism seems to me a 
word invented by hypocrites. But let that pass. As 
to women, they know that the clamour for opportunities 
/or them to become something which they cannot be is 


as reasonable as if mankind at large started asking for 
opportunities of winning immortality in this world, in 
which death is the very condition of life. You must 
understand that I am not talking here of material ex- 
istence. That naturally is implied ; but you won't main- 
tain that a woman who, say, enlisted for instance, 
(there have been cases) has conquered her place in the 
world. She has only got her living in it — which is 
quite meritorious, but not quite the same thing. 

"All these reflections which arise from my picking 
up the thread of Flora de Barral's existence did not, 
I am certain, present themselves to Mr. Powell — not 
the Mr. Powell we know, taking solitary week-end 
cruises in the estuary of the Thames (with mysterious 
dashes into lonely creeks), but to the young Mr. Powell, 
the chance second officer of the ship Ferndale, com- 
manded (and for the most part owned) by Roderick 
Anthony, the son of the poet — you know. A Mr. 
Powell, much slenderer than our robust friend is now, 
with the bloom of innocence not quite rubbed off his 
smooth cheeks, and apt not only to be interested but 
also to be surprised by the experience life was holding 
in store for him. This would account for his remem- 
bering so much of it with considerable vividness. For 
instance, the impressions attending his first breakfast 
on board the Ferndale, both visual and mental, were as 
fresh to him as if received yesterday. 

"The surprise, it is easy to understand, would arise 
from the inability to interpret aright the signs which 
experience (a thing mysterious in itself) makes to our 
understanding and emotions. For it is never more 
than that. Our experience never gets into our blood 
and bones. It always remains outside of us. That's 
why we look with wonder at the past. And this per- 
sists even when from practice and through growing 


callousness of fibre we come to the point when nothing 
that we meet in that rapid blinking stumble across a 
fliek of sunshine — which our life is — nothing, I say, 
which we run against surprises us any more. Not at 
the time, I mean. If, later on, we recover the faculty 
with some such exclamation: 'Well! Well! I'll be 
hanged if I ever, . . . ' it is probably because this very 
thing that there should be a past to look back upon, 
other people's, is very astounding in itself when one 
has the time, a fleeting and immense instant to think 
of it . . ." 

I was on the point of interrupting Marlow when he 
stopped of himself, his eyes fixed on vacancy, or — 
perhaps — (I wouldn't be too hard on him) on a vision. 
He has the habit, or, say, the fault, of defective mantel- 
piece clocks, of suddenly stopping in the very fullness 
of the tick. If you have ever lived with a clock afflicted 
with that perversity, you know how vexing it is — such 
a stoppage. I was vexed with Marlow. He was smil- 
ing faintly while I waited. He even laughed a little. 
And then I said acidly — 

"Am I to understand that you have ferreted out 
Fomething comic in the history of Flora de Barral?" 

"Comic!" he exclaimed. "No! What makes you 
say? . . . Oh, I laughed— did I? But don't you 
know that people laugh at absurdities that are very 
far from being comic? Didn't you read the latest 
books about laughter written by philosophers, psy- 
chologists? There is a lot of them . 

"I dare say there has been a lot of nonsense written 
about laughter — and tears, too, for that matter," I 
said impatiently. 

"They say," pursued the unabashed Marlow, "that 
we laugh from a sense of superiority. Therefore, ob- 
serve, simplicity, honesty, warmth of feeling, delicacy 


of heart and of conduct, self -confidence; magnanimity 
are laughed at, because the presence of these traits in a 
man's character often puts him into difficult, cruel or 
absurd situations, and makes us, the majority who are 
fairly free as a rule from these peculiarities, feel pleas- 
antly superior." 

"Speak for yourself," I said. "But have you dis- 
covered all these fine things in the story; or has Mr. 
Powell discovered them to you in his artless talk? Have 
you two been having good healthy laughs together? 
Come! Are your sides aching yet, Marlow?" 

Marlow took no offence at my banter. He was quite 

"I should not like to say off-hand how much of that 
there was," he pursued with amusing caution. "But 
there was a situation, tense enough for the signs of it to 
give many surprises to Mr. Powell — neither of them 
shocking in itself, but with a cumulative effect which 
made the whole unforgettable in the detail of its prog- 
ress. And the first surprise came very soon, when 
the explosives (to which he owed his sudden chance of 
engagement) — dynamite in cases and blasting powder 
in barrels — taken on board, main hatch battened for 
sea, cook restored to his functions in the galley, anchor 
fished and the tug ahead, rounding the S'outh Foreland, 
and with the sun sinking clear and red down the purple 
vista of the channel, he went on the poop, on duty, it is 
true, but with time to take the first freer breath in the 
busy day of departure. The pilot was still on board, 
who gave him first a silent glance, and then passed an 
insignificant remark before resuming his lounging to 
and fro between the steering wheel and the binnacle. 
Powell took his station modestly at the break of the 
poop. He had noticed across the skylight a head in a 
grey cap. But when, after a time, he crossed over to 


the other side of the deck he discovered that it was not 
the captain's head at all. He became aware of grey 
hairs curling over the nape of the neck. How could he 
have made that mistake? But on board ship away from 
the land one does not expect to come upon a stranger. 

"Powell walked past the man. A thin, somewhat 
sunken face, with a tightly closed mouth, stared at the 
distant French coast, vague like a suggestion of solid 
darkness, lying abeam beyond the evening light re- 
flected from the level waters, themselves growing more 
sombre than the sky; a stare, across which Powell 
had to pass and did pass with a quick side glance, noting 
its immovable stillness. His passage disturbed those 
eyes no more than if he had been as immaterial as a 
ghost. And this failure of his person in producing an 
impression affected him strangely. Who could that, 
old man be? 

"He was so curious that he even ventured to ask the 
pilot in a low voice. The pilot turned out to be a good- 
natured specimen of his kind, condescending, senten- 
tious. He had been down to his meals in the main 
cabin, and had something to impart. 

"'That? Queer fish— eh? Mrs. Anthony's father. 
I've been introduced to him in the cabin at breakfast- 
time. Name of Smith. Wonder if he has all his wits 
about him. They take him about with them, it seems. 
Don't look very happy — eh?' 

"Then, changing his tone abruptly, he desired Powell 
to get all hands on deck and make sail on the ship. 'I 
shall be leaving you in half an hour. You'll have 
plenty of time to find out all about the old gent,' he 
added with a thick laugh. 

"In the secret emotion of giving his first order as a 
fully responsible officer, young Powell forgot the very 


existence of that old man in a moment. The following 
days, in the interest of getting in touch with the ship, 
with the men in her, with his duties, in the rather anxi- 
ous period of settling down, his curiosity slumbered; 
for of course the pilot's few words had not extinguished 

"This settling down was made easy for him by the 
friendly character of his immediate superior — the 
chief mate. Powell could not defend himself from some 
sympathy for that thick, bald man, comically shaped, 
with his crimson complexion and something pathetic 
in the rolling of his very movable black eyes in an ap- 
parently immovable head, who was so tactfully ready 
to take his competency for granted. 

"There can be nothing more reassuring to a young 
man tackling his life's work for the first time. Mr. 
Powell, his mind at ease about himself, had time to 
observe the people around with friendly interest. Very 
early in the beginning of the passage, he had discovered 
with some amusement that the marriage of Captain 
Anthony was resented by those to whom Powell 
(conscious of being looked upon as something of an 
outsider) referred in his mind as 'the old lot.' 

"They had the funny, regretful glances, intonations, 
nods of men who had seen other, better times. What 
difference it could have made to the bo'sun and the 
carpenter Powell could not very well understand. Yet 
these two pulled long faces and even gave hostile glances 
to the poop. The cook and the steward might have 
been more directly concerned. But^the steward used 
to remark on occasion, 'Oh, she gives no extra trouble,' 
with a scrupulous fairness of the most gloomy kind. 
He was rather a silent man with a great sense of- his 
personal worth which made his speeches guarded. The 
cook, a neat man with iajr side whiskers, who h»d been 


only three years in the ship, seemed the least concerned. 
He was even known to have inquired once or twice as 
to the success of some of his dishes with the captain's 
wife. This was considered a sort of disloyal falling 
away from the ruling feeling. 

"The mate's annoyance was yet the easiest to under- 
stand. As he let it out to Powell before the first week 
of the passage was over: 'You can't expect me to be 
pleased at being chucked out of the saloon as if I weren't 
good enough to sit down to meat with that woman.' 
But he hastened to add : ' Don't you think I'm blaming 
the captain. He isn't a man to be found fault with. 
You, Mr. Powell, are too young yet to understand such 

"Some considerable time afterwards, at the end of a 
conversation of that aggrieved sort, he enlarged a little 
more by repeating : ' Yes ! You are too young to under- 
stand these things. I don't say you haven't plenty 
of sense. You are doing very well here. Jolly sight 
better than I expected, though 1 liked your looks from 
the first.' 

"It was in the trade- winds, at night, under a velvety, 
bespangled sky, a great multitude of stars watching the 
shadows of the sea gleaming mysteriously in the wake 
of the ship; while the leisurely swishing of the water to 
leeward was like a drowsy comment on her progress. 
Mr. Powell expressed his satisfaction by a half-bashful 
laugh. The mate mused on : ' And of course you haven't 
known the ship as she used to be. She was more than 
a home to a man. She was not like any other ship; 
and Captain Anthony was not like any other master 
to sail with. Neither is she now. But before one never 
had a care in the world as to her — and as to him, too. 
No, indeed, there was never anything to worry about.' 
"Young Powell couldn't see what there was to worry 


about even then. The serenity of the peaceful night 
seemed as vast as all space and as enduring as eternity 
itself. It's true the sea is an uncertain element, but no 
sailor remembers this in the presence of its bewitching 
power any more than a lover ever thinks of the prover- 
bial inconstancy of women. And Mr. PowelL being 
young, thought naively that the captain being married, 
there could be no occasion for anxiety as to his condi- 
tion. I suppose that to him life, perhaps not so much 
his own as that of others, was something still in the 
nature of a fairy-tale with a 'they lived happy ever 
after' termination. We are the creatures of our light 
literature much more than is generally suspected in a 
world which prides itself on being scientific and prac- 
tical, and in possession of incontrovertible theories. 
Powell felt in that way the more because the captain 
of a ship at sea is a remote, inaccessible creature, some- 
thing like a prince of a fairy-tale, alone of his kind, de- 
pending on nobody, not to be called to account except 
by powers practically invisible and so distant, that 
they might well be looked upon as supernatural for all 
that the rest of the crew knows of them, as a rule. 

" So he did not understand the aggrieved attitude of 
the mate — or rather he understood it obscurely as a 
result of simple causes which did not seem to him ade- 
quate. He would have dismissed all this out of his 
mind with a contemptuous: 'What the devil do I 
care?' if the captain's wife herself had not been so 
young. To see her the first time had been some- 
thing of a shock to him. He had some preconceived 
ideas as to captains' wives which, while he did not be- 
lieve the testimony of his eyes, made him open them 
very wide. He had stared till the captain's wife no- 
ticed it plainly and turned her face away. Captain's 
voie! That girl covered with rugs in a long chair. 


Captain's . . . ! He gasped mentally. It had never 
occurred to him that a captain's wife could be anything 
but a woman to be described as stout or thin, as jolly 
or crabbed, but always mature, and even, in comparison 
with his own years, frankly old. But this! It was a 
sort of moral upset as though he had discovered a case 
of abduction or something as surprising as that. You 
understand that nothing is more disturbing than the 
upsetting of a preconceived idea. Each of us arranges 
the world according to his own notion of the fitness of 
things. To behold a girl where your average mediocre 
imagination had placed a comparatively old womari 
may easily become one of the strongest shocks . . ." 

Marlow paused, smiling to himself. 

"Powell remained impressed after all these years by 
the very recollection," he continued in a voice, amused 
perhaps but not mocking. "He said to me only the 
other day with something like the first awe of that dis- 
covery lingering in his tone — he said to me: 'Why, she 
seemed so young, so girlish, that I looked round for some 
woman who would be the captain's wife, though of 
course I knew there was no other woman on board that 
voyage.' The voyage before, it seems, there had been 
the steward's wife to act as maid to Mrs. Anthony; but 
she was not taken that time for some reason he didn't 
know. Mrs. Anthony . . . ! If it hadn't been 
the captain's wife he would have referred to her men- 
tally as a kid, he said. I suppose there must be a sort 
of divinity hedging in a captain's wife (however in- 
credible) which prevented him applying to her that 
contemptuous definition in the secret of his thoughts. 

"I asked him when this had happened; and he told 
me that it was three days after parting from the tug, 
just outside the channel — to be precise. A head wind 
had set in with unpleasant damp weather. He had 


come up to leeward of the poop, still feeling very much 
of a stranger, and an untried officer, at six in the evening 
to take his watch. To see her was quite as unex- 
pected as seeing a vision. When she turned away her 
head he recollected himself and dropped his eyes. What 
he could see then was only, close to the long chair on 
which she reclined, a pair of long, thin legs ending in 
black cloth boots tucked in close to the skylight seat. 
Whence he concluded that the 'old gentleman,' who 
wore a grey cap like the captain's, was sitting by her 
— his daughter. In his first astonishment he had stopped 
dead short, with the consequence that now he felt very 
much abashed at having betrayed his surprise. But 
he couldn't very well turn tail and bolt off the poop. 
He had come here on duty. So, still with downcast 
eyes, he made his way past them. Only when he got 
as far as the wheel-grating did he look up. She was 
hidden from him by the back of her deck-chair; but he 
had the view of the owner of the thin, aged legs seated 
on the skylight, his clean-shaved cheek, his thin com- 
pressed mouth with a hollow in each corner, the sparse 
grey locks escaping from under the tweed cap, and curl- 
ing slightly on the collar of the coat. He leaned for- 
ward a little over Mrs. Anthony, but they were not 
talking. Captain Anthony, walking with a springy 
hurried gait on the other side of the poop from end to 
end, gazed straight before him. Young Powell might 
have thought that his captain was not aware of his 
presence either. However, he knew better, and for 
that reason spent a most uncomfortable hour motion- 
less by the compass before his captain stopped in his 
swift pacing and with an almost visible effort made 
some remark to him about the weather in a low voice. 
Before Powell, who was startled, could find a word of 
answer, the captain swung off again on his endless tramp 


with a fixed gaze. And till the supper bell rang silence 
dwelt over that poop like an evil spell. The captain 
walked up and down looking straight before him, the 
helmsman steered, looking upwards at the sails, the 
old gent on the skylight looked down on his daughter— 
and Mr. Powell confessed to me that he didn't know 
where to look, feeling as though he had blundered 
in where he had no business — which was absurd. At last 
he fastened his eyes on the compass card, took refuge, in 
spirit, inside the binnacle. He felt chilled more than 
he should have been by the chilly dusk falling on the 
muddy green sea of the soundings from a smoothly 
clouded sky. A fitful wind swept the cheerless waste, 
and the ship, hauled up so close as to check her way, 
seemed +*> progress by languid fits and starts against 
the short seas which swept along her sides with a snarl- 
ing sound. 

"Young Powell thought that this was the dreariest 
evening aspect of the sea he had ever seen. He was 
glad when the other occupants of the poop left it at the 
sound of the bell. The captain first, with a sudden 
swerve in his walk towards the companion, and not 
even looking once towards his wife and his wife's 
father. Those two got up and moved towards th«5 
companion, the old gent very erect, his thin locks stir- 
ring gently about the nape of his neck, and carrying 
the rugs over his arm. The girl who was Mrs. Anthony 
went down first. The murky twilight had settled in 
deep shadow on her face. She looked at Mr. Powell in 
passing. He thought that she was very pale. Cold 
perhaps. The old gent stopped a moment, thin and 
stiff, before the young man, and in a voice which was 
low but distinct enough, and without any particular 
accent — not even of inquiry — he said — 

"'You are the new second officer, I believe.' 


"'Mr. Powell answered in the affirmatire, wondering 
if this was a friendly overture. He had noticed that 
Mr. Smith's eyes had a sort of inward look as though, 
he had disliked or disdained his surroundings. The 
captain's wife had disappeared then down the com- 
panion stairs. Mr. Smith said 'Ah!' and waited a 
little longer to put another question in his incurious 

'"And did you know the man who was here before 

"'No,' said young Powell, 'I didn't know anybody 
belonging to this ship before I joined.' 

"'He was much older than you. Twice your age. 
Perhaps more. His hair was iron grey. Yes. Cer- 
tainly more.' 

"The low, repressed voice paused, but the old 
man did not move away. He added: 'Isn't it un- 

"Mr. Powell was surprised not only by being en- 
gaged in conversation, but also by its character. It 
might have been the suggestion of the word uttered 
by this old man, but it was distinctly at that moment 
that he became aware of something unusual not only 
in this encounter but generally around him, about 
everybody, in the atmosphere. The very sea, with 
short flashes of foam bursting out here and there 
in the gloomy distances, the unchangeable, safe, sea 
sheltering a man from all passions, except its own anger, 
seemed queer to the quick glance he threw to wind^ 
ward where the already effaced horizon traced no re- 
assuring limit to the eye. In the expiring, diffused 
twilight, and before the clouded night dropped its 
mysterious veil, it was the immensity of space made 
visible — almost palpable. Young Powell felt it. He 
felt it in the sudden sense of his isolation; the trust- 


worthy, powerful ship of his first acquaintance re- 
duced to a speck, to something almost undistinguishable, 
the mere support for the soles of his two feet before that 
unexpected old man becoming so suddenly articulate 
in a darkening universe. 

"It took him a moment or so to seize the drift of the 
question. He repeated slowly: 'Unusual. . . . Oh, 
you mean for an elderly man to be the second of a ship. 
I don't know. There are a good many of us who don't, 
get on. He didn't get on, I suppose.' 

"The other, his head bowed a little, had the air of 
listening with acute attention. 

"And now he has been taken to the hospital,' he 

"I believe so. Yes. I remember Captain Anthony 
saying so in the shipping office.' 

" 'Possibly about to die,' went on the old man, in his 
careful deliberate tone. 'And perhaps glad enough to 

"Mr. Powell was young enough to be startled at the 
suggestion, which sounded confidential and blood- 1 
curdling in the dusk. He said sharply that it was not 
very likely, as if defending the absent victim of the ac- 
cident from an unkind aspersion. He felt, in fact, 
indignant. The other emitted a short stifled laugh 
of a conciliatory nature. The second bell rang under 
the poop. He made a movement at the sound, but 

" ' What I said was not meant seriously,' he murmured 
with that strange air of fearing to be overheard. 'Not 
in this case. I know the man.' 

" The occasion, or rather the want of occasion, for this 
conversation, had sharpened the perceptions of the un- 
sophisticated second officer of the Ferndale. He was 
alive to the slightest shade of tone, and felt as if this 


'I know the man' should have been followed by a 'he 
was no friend of mine.' But after the shortest possible 
break the old gentleman continued to murmur distinctly, 
and evenly — 

'"Whereas you have never seen him. Nevertheless 
when you have gone through as many years as I have, 
you will understand how an event putting an end to 
one's existence may not be altogether unwelcome. Of 
course there are stupid accidents. And even then one 
needn't be very angry. What is it to be deprived of 
life? It's soon done. But what would you think of 
the feelings of a man who should have had his life 
stolen from him? Cheated out of it, I say!' 

"He ceased abruptly, and remained still long enough 
for the astonished Powell to stammer out an indistinct: 
'What do you mean? I don't understand.' Then, 
with a low 'Good -night' glided a few steps, and sank 
through the shadow of the companion into the lamp- 
light below which did not reach higher than the turn of 
the staircase. 

"The strange words, the cautious tone, the whole 
person left a strong uneasiness in the mind of Mr. 
Powell. He started walking the poop in great mental 
confusion. He felt all adrift. This was funny talk 
and no mistake. And this cautious low tone as though 
he were watched by someone was more than funny. 
The young second officer hesitated to break the estab- 
lished rule of every ship's discipline; but at last could 
not resist the temptation of getting hold of some other 
human being, and spoke to the man at the wheel. 

"Did you hear what this gentleman was saying to 

"No, sir,' answered the sailor quietly. Then, en- 
couraged by this evidence of laxity in his officer, made 
bold to add, 'A queer fish, sir.' This was tentative, 


and Mr. Powell, busy with his own view, not saying 
anything, he ventured further. 'They are more like 
passengers. One sees some queer passengers.' 

"'Who are like passengers?' asked Powell gruffly, 

"'Why, these two, sir.' 



"Young Powell thought to himself: 'The men, too, 
are noticing it.' Indeed, the captain's behaviour to 
his wife and to his wife's father was noticeable enough. 
It was as if they had been a pair of not very congenial 
passengers. But perhaps it was not always like that. 
The captain might have been put out by something. 

"When the aggrieved Franklin came on deck Mr. 
Powell made a remark to that effect. For his curiosity 
was aroused. 

! "The mate grumbled 'Seems to you? . . . Put 
out? . . . eh?' He buttoned his thick jacket up 
to the throat, and only then added a gloomy 'Aye, 
likely enough,' which discouraged further conversation. 
But no encouragement would have induced the newly 
joined second mate to enter the way of confidences. 
His was an instinctive prudence. Powell did not 
know why it was he had resolved to keep his own coun- 
sel as to his colloquy with Mr. Smith. But his curiosity 
did not slumber. Some time afterwards, again at the 
relief of watches, in the course of a little talk, he men- 
tioned Mrs. Anthony's father quite casually, and tried 
to find out from the mate who he was. 

'"It would take a clever man to find that out, as 
things are on board now,' Mr. Franklin said, unexpect- 
edly communicative. ' The first I saw of him was when 
she brought him alongside in a four-wheeler one morn- 
ing about half-past eleven. The captain had come on 

486 r 


board early, and was down in the cabin that had been 
fitted out for him. Did I tell you that if you want the 
captain for anything you must stamp on the port side 
of the deck? That's so. This ship is not only unlike 
what she used to be, but she is like no other ship, 
anyhow. Did you ever hear of the captain's room 
being on the port side? Both of them stern cabins 
have been fitted up afresh like a blessed palace. A 
gang of people from some tip-top West-End house were 
fussing here on board with hangings and furniture for 
a fortnight, as if the Queen were coming with us. Of 
course the starboard cabin is the bedroom one, but the 
poor captain hangs out to port on a couch, so that in 
case we want him on deck at night, Mrs. Anthony 
should not be startled. Nervous! Phoo! A woman 
who marries a sailor and makes up her mind to come 
to sea should have no blamed jumpiness about her, I 
say. But never mind. Directly the old cab pointed 
round the corner of the warehouse I called out to the 
captain that his lady was coming aboard. He answered 
me, but as I didn't see him coming, I went down the gang- 
way myself to help her alight. She jumps out excitedly 
without touching my arm, or as much as saying 'thank 
you' or 'good morning' or anything, turns back to the 
cab, and then that old joker comes out slowly. I hadn't 
noticed him inside. I hadn't expected to see anybody. 
It gave me a start. She says: 'My father — Mr. 
Franklin.' He was staring at me like an owl. 'How 
do you do, sir?' says I. Both of them looked funny. 
It was as if something had happened to them on the 
way. Neither of them moved, and I stood by waiting. 
The captain showed himself on the poop; and I saw 
him at the side looking over, and then he disappeared; 
on the way to meet them on shore, I expected. But 
he just went down below again. So. not seeing him, 


I said: 'Let me help you on board, sir.* 'On board!' 
says he in a silly fashion. ' On board ! ' ' It's not a very 
good ladder, but it's quite firm,' says I, as he seemed 
to be afraid of it. And he didn't look a broken-down 
old man, either. You can see yourself what he is. 
Straight as a poker, and life enough in him yet. But 
he made no move, and I began to feel foolish. Then 
she comes forward. 'Oh! Thank you, Mr. Franklin. 
I'll help my father up.' Flabbergasted me — to be 
choked off like this. Pushed in between him and me 
without as much as a look my way. So of course I 
dropped it. What do you think? I fell back. I would 
have gone up on board at once and left them on the 
quay to come up or stay there till next week, only they 
were blocking the way. I couldn't very well shove 
them on one side. Devil only knows what was up be- 
tween them. There she was, pale as death, talking 
to him very fast. He got as red as a turkey-cock- 
dash me if he didn't. A bad-tempered old bloke, I 
can tell you. And a bad lot, too. Never mind. I 
couldn't hear what she was saying to him, but she put 
force enough into it to shake her. It seemed — it 
seemed, mind! — that he didn't want to go on board. 
Of course it couldn't have been that. I know better. 
Well, she took him by the arm, above the elbow, as if 
to lead him or push him rather. I was standing not 
quite ten feet off. Why should I have gone away? 
I was anxious to get back on board as soon as they 
would let me. I didn't want to overhear her blamed 
whispering either. But I couldn't stay there for ever, 
so I made a move to get past them if I could. And that's 
how I heard a few words. It was the old chap — some- 
thing nasty about being 'under the heel' of somebody 
or other. Then he says, 'I don't want this sacrifice.' 
What it meant I can't tell. It was a quarrel — of that 


I am certain. She looks over her shoulder, and sees 
me pretty close to them. I don't know what she found 
to say into his ear, but he gave way suddenly. He 
looked round at me too, and they went up together so 
quickly then that when I got on the quarter-deck I 
was only in time to see the inner door of the passage 
close after them. Queer — eh? But if it were only 
queerness one wouldn't mind. Some luggage in new 
trunks came on board in the afternoon. We undocked 
at midnight. And may I be hanged if I know who 
or what he was or is. I haven't been able to find out. 
No, I don't know. He may have been anything. All I 
know is that once, years ago when I went to see the 
Derby with a friend, I saw a pea-and-thimble chap who 
looked just like that old mystery father out of a cab.' 
"All this the goggle-eyed mate had said in a resent- 
ful and melancholy voice, with pauses, to the gentle 
murmur of the sea. It was for him a bitter sort of 
pleasure to have a fresh pair of ears, a new-comer, to 
whom he could repeat all these matters of grief and 
suspicion talked over endlessly by the band of Captain 
Anthony's faithful subordinates. It was evidently so 
refreshing to his worried spirit that it made him for- 
get the advisability of a little caution with a complete 
stranger. But really with Mr. Powell there was no 
danger. Amused, at first, at these plaints, he pro- 
voked them for fun. Afterwards, turning them over 
in his mind, he became impressed; and as the impression 
grew stronger with the days his resolution to keep it to 
himself grew stronger too. 

"What made it all the easier to keep — I mean the 
resolution — was that Powell's sentiment of amused 
surprise at what struck him at first as mere absurdity 
was not unmingled with indignation. And his years 


were too few, his position too novel, his reliance on his 
own opinion not yet firm enough to allow him to ex- 
press it with any effect. And then — what would have 
been the use, anyhow — and where was the necessity? 

"But this thing, familiar and mysterious at the same 
time, occupied his imagination. The solitude of the 
sea intensifies the thoughts and the facts of one's 
experience which seems to lie at the very centre of the 
world, as the ship which carries one always remains 
the centre figure of the round horizon. He viewed the 
apoplectic, goggle-eyed mate and the saturnine, heavy- 
eyed steward as the victims of a peculiar and secret 
form of lunacy which poisoned their lives. But he 
did not give them his sympathy on that account. 
No. That strange affliction awakened in him a sort 
of suspicious wonder. 

"Once — and it was at night again; for the officers of 
the Ferndale keeping watch and watch as was custom- 
ary in those days, had but few occasions for intercourse 
—once, I say, the thick Mr. Franklin, a quaintly bulky 
figure under the stars, the usual witnesses of his out- 
pourings, asked him with an abruptness which was not 
callous, but in his simple way — 

"'I believe you have no parents living?' 

Mr. Powell said that he had lost his father and mother 
at a very early age. 

"'My mother is still alive,' declared Mr. Franklin 
in a tone which suggested that he was gratified by the 
fact. 'The old lady is lasting well. Of course she's 
got to be made comfortable. A woman must be looked 
after, and, if it comes to that, I say, give me a mother. 
I dare say if she had not lasted it out so well I might 
have gone and got married. I don't know, though. 
We sailors haven't got much time to look about us to 
any purpose. Anyhow, as the old lady was there I 


haven't, 1 may say, looked at a girl in all my life. Not 
that I wasn't partial to female society in my time,' 
he added with a pathetic intonation, while the whites 
of his goggle eyes gleamed amorously under the clear 
night sky. ' Very partial, I may say.' 

"Mr. Powell was amused; and as thesf communica- 
tions took place only when the mate was relieved off 
duty he had no serious objection to them. The mate's 
presence made the first half-hour and sometimes even 
more of his watch on deck pass away. If his senior 
did not mind losing some of his rest it was not Mr. 
Powell's affair. Franklin was a decent fellow. His 
intention was not to boast of his filial piety. 

"Of course I mean respectable female society,' he 
explained. 'The other sort is neither here nor there. 
I blame no man's conduct, but a well-brought-up young 
fellow like you knows that there's precious little fun 
to be got out of it.' He fetched a deep sigh. 'I wish 
Captain Anthony's mother had been a lasting sort like 
my old lady. He would have had to look after her and 
he would have done it well. Captain Anthony is a 
proper man. And it would have saved him from the 
most f oolish ' 

"He did not finish the phrase which certainly was 
turning bitter in his mouth. Mr. Powell thought to 
himself: 'There he goes again.' He laughed a little. 

"I don't understand why you are so hard on the 
captain, Mr. Franklin. I thought you were a great 
friend of his.' 

"Mr. Franklin exclaimed at this. He was npt hard 
on the captain. Nothing was further from his thoughts. 
Friend ! Of course he was a good friend and a faithful 
servant. He begged Powell to understand that if 
Captain Anthony chose to strike a bargain with Old 
Nick to-morrow, and Old Nick were good to the captain, 


he (Franklin) would find it in his heart to love Old 
Nick for the captain's sake. That was so. On the 
other hand, if a saint, an angel with white wings came 
along and ' 

"He broke off short again as if his own vehemence 
had frightened him. Then in his strained pathetic 
voice (which he had never raised) he observed that it 
was no use talking. Anybody could see that the man 
was changed. 

"'As to that,' said young Powell, 'it is impossible 
for me to judge.' 

"'Good Lord"!' whispered the mate. 'An educated, 
clever young fellow like you with a pair of eyes on him 
and some sense too! Is that how a happy man looks? 
Eh? Young you may be, but you aren't a kid; and I 
dare you to say "Yes!"' 

"Mr. Powell did not take up the challenge. He 
did not know what to think of the mate's view. Still, 
it seemed as if it had opened his understanding in 
a measure. He conceded that the captain did not look 
very well. 

"'Not very well,' repeated the mate mournfully. 
'Do you think a man with a face like that can hope to 
live his life out? You haven't knocked about long in 
this world yet, but you are a sailor, you have been in 
three or four ships, you say. Well, have you ever seen 
a ship-master walking his own deck as if he did not 
know what he had underfoot? Have you? Dam'me 
if I don't think that he forgets where he is. Of course 
he can be no other than a prime seaman; but it's lucky, 
all the same, he has me on board. I know by this time 
what he wants done without being told. Do you 
know that I have had no order given me since we left 
port? Do you know that he has never once opened 
his lips to me unless I spoke to him first? I! His chief 


officer; his shipmate for full six years, with whom he 
had no cross word — not once in all that time. Aye. 
Not a cross look even. True that when I do make 
him speak to me, there is his dear old self, the quick 
eye, the kind voice. Could hardly be other to his old 
Franklin. But what's the good? Eyes, voice, every- 
thing's miles away. And for all that I take good care 
never to address him when the poop isn't clear. Yes! 
Only we two and nothing but the sea with us. You 
think it would be all right; the only chief mate he ever 
had — Mr. Franklin here and Mr. Franklin there — when 
anything went wrong the first word you would hear 
about the decks was "Franklin!''— I am thirteen years 
older than he is — you would think it would be all right, 
wouldn't you? Only we two on this poop on which 
we saw each other first — he a young master — told 
me that he thought I would suit him very well — we two, 
and thirty-one days out at sea, and it's no good! It's 
like talking to a man standing on shore. I can't get 
him back. I can't get at him. I feel sometimes as if 
I must shake him by the arm: "Wake up! Wake up! 
You are wanted, sir . . . ! " 

"Young Powell recognized the expression of a true 
sentiment, a thing so rare in this world where there are 
so many mutes and so many excellent reasons even at 
sea for an articulate man not to give himself away, 
that he felt something like respect for this outburst. 
It was not loud. The grotesque squat shape, with the 
knob of the head as if rammed down between the square 
shoulders by a blow from a club, moved vaguely in a 
circumscribed space limited by' the two harness-casks 
lashed to the front rail of the poop, without gestures, 
hands in the pockets of the jacket, elbows pressed 
closely to its side; and the voice without resonance, 
passed from anger to dismay and back again without 


a single louder word in the hurried delivery, interrupted 
only by slight gasps for air as if the speaker were being 
choked by the suppressed passion of his grief. 

"Mr. Powell, though moved to a certain extent, was 
by no means carried away. And just as he thought 
that it was all over, the other, fidgeting in the darkness, 
was heard again explosive, bewildered but not very 
loud in the silence of the ship and the great empty 
peace of the sea. 

"'They have done something to him! What is it? 
What can it be? Can't you guess? Don't you know? ' 

'"Good heavens!' Young Powell was astounded 
on discovering that this was an appeal addressed to 
him. 'How on earth can I know?' 

"'You do talk to that white-faced, black-eyed . . . 
I've seen you talking to her more than a dozen 

"Young Powell, his sympathy suddenly chilled, re- 
marked in a disdainful tone that Mrs. Anthony's eyes 
were not black. 

'"I wish to God she had never set them on the cap- 
tain, whatever colour they are,' retorted Franklin. 
'She and that old chap with the scraped jaws who sits 
over her and stares down at her dead-white face with 
his yellow eyes — confound them! Perhaps you will 
tell us that his eyes are not yellow?' 

"Powell, not interested in the colour of Mr. Smith's 
eyes, made a vague gesture. Yellow or not yellow, it 
was all one to him. 

"The mate murmured to himself: 'No. He can't 
know. No! No more than a baby. It would take 
an older head.' 

"'I don't even understand what you mean,' observed 
Mr. Powell coldly. 

"'And even the best head would be puzzl»,d by such- 


devil-work,' the mate continued, muttering. 'Well, I 
have heard tell of women doing for a man in one way or 
another when they got him fairly ashore. But to bring 
their devilry to sea and fasten on such a man! . . . 
It's something I can't understand. But I can watch. 
Let them look out — I say ! ' 

"His short figure, unable to stoop, without flexibility, 
could not express dejection. He was very tired sud- 
denly; he dragged his feet going off the poop. Before 
he left it with nearly an hour of his watch below sacri- 
ficed, he addressed himself once more to our young man 
who stood abreast of the mizzen rigging in an unrecep- 
tive mood expressed by silence and immobility. He 
did not regret, he said, having spoken openly on this 
very serious matter. i 

"I don't know about its seriousness, sir,' was Mr. 
Powell's frank answer. 'But if you think you have 
been telling me something very new you are mistaken. 
You can't keep that matter out of your speeches. It's 
the sort of thing I've been hearing more or less ever 
since I came on board.' 

"Mr. Powell, speaking truthfully, did not mean to 
speak offensively. He had instincts of wisdom; he 
felt that this was a serious affair, for it had nothing to 
do with reason. He did not want to raise an enemy 
for himself in the mate. And Mr. Franklin did not 
take offence. To Mr. Powell's truthful statement he 
answered with equal truth and simplicity that it was 
very likely, very likely. With a thing like that (next 
door to witchcraft almost) weighing on his mind, the 
wonder was that he could think of anything else. The 
poor man must have found in the restlessness of his 
thoughts the illusion of being engaged in an active 
contest with some power of evil; for his last words as 
he went lingeringly down the poop ladder expressed 


the quaint hope that he would get him, Powell, 'on 
our side yet.' 

"Mr. Powell — just imagine a straightforward youngr 
ster assailed in this fashion on the high seas — answered 
merely by an embarrassed and uneasy laugh which 
reflected exactly the state of his innocent soul. The 
apoplectic mate, already half-way down, went up again 
three steps of the poop ladder. Why, yes. A proper 
young fellow, the mate expected, wouldn't stand by 
and see a man, a good sailor and his own skipper, in 
trouble without taking his part against a couple of shore 
people who Mr. Powell interrupted him im- 
patiently, asking what was the trouble? 

"'What is it you are hinting at?' he cried with an 
inexplicable irritation. 

"'I don't like to think of him all alone down there 
with these two,' Franklin whispered impressively. 
'Upon my word I don't. God only knows what may 
be going on there. . . . Don't laugh. ... It 
was bad enough last voyage when Mrs. Brown had a 
cabin aft; but now it's worse. It frightens me. I 
can't sleep sometimes for thinking of him all alone there, 
shut off from us all.' 

"Mrs. Brown was the steward's wife. You must 
understand that shortly after his visit to the Fyne 
cottage (with all its consequences), Anthony had got 
an offer to go to the Western Islands, and bring home 
the cargo of some ship which, damaged in a collision or 
a stranding, took refuge in St. Michael, and was con- 
demned there. Roderick Anthony had connections 
which would put such paying jobs in his way. So 
Flora de Barral had but a five months' voyage, a mere 
excursion, for her first trial of sea-life. And Anthony, 
clearly trying to be most attentive, had induced this 
Mrs. Brown, the wife of his faithful steward, to come 


along as maid to his bride. But for some reason or 
other this arrangement was not continued. And the 
mate, tormented by indefinite alarms and forebodings, 
regretted it. He regretted that Jane Brown was no 
longer on board — as a sort of representative of Captain 
Anthony's faithful servants, to watch quietly what 
went on in that part of the ship this fatal marriage had 
closed to their vigilance. That had been excellent. 
For she was a dependable woman. 

"Powell did not detect any particular excellence in 
what seemed a spying employment. But in his sim- 
plicity he said that he should have thought Mrs. 
Anthony would have been glad anyhow to have another 
woman on board. He was thinking of the white-faced 
girlish personality which it seemed to him ought to have 
been cared for. The innocent young man always looked 
upon the girl as immature; something of a child yet. 

"'She! glad! Why it was she who had her fired out. 
She didn't want anybody around the cabin. Mrs. 
Brown is certain of it. She told her husband so. You 
ask the steward and hear what he has to say about it. 
That's why I don't like it. A capable woman who 
knew her place. But no. Out she must go. For 
no fault, mind you. The captain was ashamed to send 
her away. But that wife of his — aye, the precious 
pair of them have got hold of him. I can't speak to 
him for a minute on the poop without that thimble- 
rigging coon coming gliding up. I'll tell you what. 
I overheard once — God knows I didn't try to — only 
he forgot I was on the other side of the skylight with 
my sextant — I overheard him — you know how he sits 
hanging over her chair and talking away without 
properly opening his mouth — yes I caught the word 
right enough. He was alluding to the captain as 
"the jailer." The jail ...!'' 


"Franklin broke off with a profane execration. A 
silence reigned for a long time and the slight, very 
gentle rolling of the ship slipping before the N.E. trade- 
wind seemed to be a soothing device for lulling to sleep 
the suspicions of men who trust themselves to the sea. 

"A deep sigh was heard followed by the mate's 
voice asking dismally if that was the way one would 
speak of a man to whom one wished well? No better 
proof of something wrong was needed. Therefore he 
hoped, as he vanished at last, that Mr. Powell would 
be on their side. And this time Mr. Powell did not 
answer this hope with an embarrassed laugh. 

"That young officer was more and more surprised 
at the nature of the incongruous revelations coming to 
him in the surroundings and in the atmosphere of the 
open sea. It is difficult for us to understand the extent, 
the completeness, the comprehensiveness of his inex- 
perience, for us who didn't go to sea out of a small pri- 
vate school at the age of fourteen years and nine months. 
Leaning on his elbow in the mizzen rigging and so still 
that the helmsman over there at the other end of the 
poop might have (and he probably did) suspect him 
of being criminally asleep on duty, he tried to 'get 
hold of that thing' by some side which would fit in 
with his simple notions of psychology. 'What the 
deuce are they worrying about?' he asked himself in a 
dazed and contemptuous impatience. But all the 
same, 'jailer' was a funny name to give a man; unkind, 
unfriendly, nasty. He was sorry that Mr. Smith was 
guilty in that matter because, the truth must be told, 
he had been to a certain extent sensible of having been 
noticed in a quiet manner by the father of Mrs. Anthony. 
Youth appreciates that sort of recognition which is the 
subtlest form of flattery age can offer. Mr. Smith 
seized opportunities to approach him on deck. His 


remarks were sometimes weird and enigmatical. He 
was doubtless an eccentric old gent. But from that 
to calling his son-in-law (whom he never approached 
on deck) nasty names behind his back was a long step. 

"And Mr. Powell marvelled. ..." 

"While he was telling me all this" — Marlow changed 
his tone — "I marvelled even more. It was as if mis- 
fortune marked its victims on the forehead for the 
dislike of the crowd. I am not thinking here of num- 
bers. Two men may behave like a crowd, three cer- 
tainly will when their emotions are engaged. It was 
as if the forehead of Flora de Barral were marked. Was 
the girl born to be a victim; to be always disliked and 
crushed as if she were too fine for this world? Or too 
luckless — since that also is often counted as sin. 

"Yes, I marvelled more since I knew more of the 
girl than Mr. Powell — if only her true name; and more 
of Captain Anthony — if only the fact that he was the 
son of a delicate erotic poet of a markedly refined and 
autocratic temperament. Yes, I know their joint 
stories which Mr. Powell did not know. The chapter 
in it he was opening to me, the sea-chapter, with such 
new personages as the sentimental and apoplectic 
chief-mate and the morose steward, however astounding 
to him in its detached condition was much more so 
to me as a member of a series, following the chapter 
outside the Eastern Hotel in which I myself had played 
my part. In view of her declarations and my sage 
remarks it was very unexpected. She had meant 
well, and I had certainly meant well too. Captain 
Anthony — as far as I could gather from little Fyne 
— had meant well. As far as such lofty words may be 
applied to the obscure personages of this story, we were 
all filled with the noblest sentiments and intentions. 
The sea was there to give them the shelter of its solitude 


free from the earth's petty suggestions. I could well 
marvel in myself, as to what had happened. 

"I hope that if he saw it, Mr. Powell forgave me the 
smile of which I was guilty at that moment. The light 
in the cabin of his little cutter was dim. And the smile 
was dim too. Dim and fleeting. The girl's life had 
presented itself to me as a tfagi-comical adventure, 
the saddest thing on earth, slipping between frank 
laughter and unabashed tears. Yes, the saddest facts 
and the most common, and, being common, perhaps 
the most worthy of our unreserved pity. 

"The purely human reality is capable of lyrism but 
not of abstraction. Nothing will serve for its under- 
standing but the evidence of rational linking up of 
characters and facts. And beginning with Flora de 
Barral, in the light of my memories I was certain that 
she at least must have been passive; for that is of neces- 
sity the part of women, this waiting on fate which some 
of them, and not the most intelligent^ cover up by the 
vain appearances of agitation. Flora de Barral was 
not exceptionally intelligent but she was thoroughly 
feminine. She would be passive (and that does not 
mean inanimate) in the circumstances, where the mere 
fact of being a woman was enough to give her an occult 
and supreme significance. And she would be enduring, 
which is the essence of woman's visible, tangible power. 
Of that I was certain. Had she not endured already? 
Yet it is so true that the germ of destruction lies in wait 
for us mortals, even at the very source of our strength, 
that one may die of too much endurance as well as of 
too little of it. 

"Such was my train of thought. And I was mindful 
also of my first view of her — toying or perhaps commun- 
ing in earnest with the possibilities of a precipice. But 
.1 did not ask Mr. Powell anxiously what hadhappenesi 


to Mrs. Anthony in the end. I let him go on in his 
own way, feeling that no matter what strange facts 
he would have to disclose, I was certain to know much 
more of them than he ever did know or could possibly 
guess. . . ." 

Marlow paused for quite a long time. He seemed 
uncertain as though he had advanced something be- 
yond my grasp. Purposely I made no sign. "You 
understand?" he asked. 

"Perfectly," I said. "You are the expert in the 
psychological wilderness. This is like one of those 
Redskin stories where the noble savages carry off a 
girl and the honest backwoodsman with his incompar- 
able knowledge follows the track and reads the signs 
of her fate in a footprint here, a broken twig there, a 
trinket dropped by the way. I have always liked such 
stories. Go on." 

Marlow smiled indulgently at my jesting. "It is 
not exactly a story for boys," he said. "I go on then. 
The sign, as you call it, was not very plentiful but very 
much to the purpose, and when Mr. Powell heard (at 
a certain moment I felt bound to tell him), when he 
heard that I had known Mrs. Anthony before her mar- 
riage, that, to a certain extent, I was her confidant . . . 
For you can't deny that to a certain extent . . . Well, 
let us say that I had a look in. ... A young 
girl, you know, is something like a temple. You pass 
by and wonder what mysterious rites are going on in 
there, what prayers, what visions? The privileged 
man, the lover, the husband, who are given the key 
of the sanctuary do not always know how to use it. 
For myself, without claim, without merit, simply by 
chance I had been allowed to look through the half- 
opened door and I had seen the saddest possible desecra- 
tion, the withered brightness of youth, a spirit neither 


made cringing nor yet dulled but as if bewildered in 
quivering hopelessness by gratuitous cruelty; self- 
confidence destroyed and, instead, a resigned reckless- 
ness, a mournful callousness (and all this simple, almost 
naive) — before the material and moral difficulties of 
the situation. The passive anguish of the luckless! 

"I asked myself: wasn't that ill-luck exhausted yet? 
Ill-luck which is like the hate of invisible powers inter- 
preted, made sensible and injurious by the actions of 

"Mr. Powell as you may well imagine had opened 
his eyes at my statement. But he was full of his re- 
called experiences on board the Ferndale, and the 
strangeness of being mixed up in what went on aboard 
simply because his name was also the name of a shipping 
master, kept him in a state of wonder which made 
other coincidences, however unlikely, not so very sur- 
prising after all. 

"This astonishing occurrence was so present to his 
mind that he always felt as though he were there under 
false pretences. And this feeling was so uncomfortable 
that it nerved him to break through the awe-inspiring 
aloofness of his captain. He wanted to make a clean 
breast of it. I imagine that his youth stood in good 
stead to Mr. Powell. Oh, yes. Youth is a power. 
Even Captain Anthony had to take some notice of it, 
as if it refreshed him to see something untouched, un- 
scarred, unhardened by suffering. Or perhaps the 
very novelty of that face, on board a ship where he 
had seen the same faces for years, attracted his atten- 

"Whether one day he dropped a word to his new 
second officer or only looked at him I don't know; but 
Mr. Poweii seized the opportunity N whatever it was. 
The captain who had started and stopped in his ever- 


lasting rapid walk smoothed his brow very soon, heard 
him to the end and then laughed a little. 

"Ah! That's the story. And you felt you must 
put me right as to this.' 

"'Yes, sir.' 

"'It doesn't matter how you came on board,' said 
Anthony. And then showing that perhaps he was not 
so utterly absent from his ship as Franklin supposed: 
' That's all right. You seem to be getting on very well 
with everybody,' he said in his curt hurried tone, as 
if talking hurt him, and his eyes already straying over 
the sea as usual. 

"'Yes, sir.' 

"Powell tells me that looking then at the strong face 
to which that haggard expression was returning, he 
had the impulse, from some confused friendly feeling;, 
to add: 'I am very happy on board here, sir.' 

" The quickly returning glance, its steadiness, abashed 
Mr. Powell and made him even step back a little. The 
captain looked as though he had forgotten the meaning 
of the word. 

"'You — what? Oh yes . . . You ... of 
course . . . Happy. Why not?' 

"This was merely muttered; and next moment An 
thony was off on his headlong tramp, his eyes turned 
to the sea away from his ship. 

"A sailor indeed looks generally into the great dis- 
tances, but in Captain Anthony's case there was — as 
Powell expressed it — something particular, something 
purposeful like the avoidance of pain or temptation. 
It was very marked once one had become aware of it. 
Before, one felt only a pronounced strangeness. Not 
that the captain — Powell was careful to explain — 
didn't see things as a ship-master should. The proof 
of it was that on that very occasion he desired him 


suddenly, after a period of silent pacing, to have all 
the staysails sheets eased off, and he was going on with 
some other remarks on the subject of these staysails 
when Mrs. Anthony followed by her father emerged 
from the companion. She established herself in her 
chair to leeward of the skylight as usual. Thereupon 
the captain cut short whatever he was going to say, 
and in a little while went down below. 

"I asked Mr. Powell whether the captain and his wife 
never conversed on deck. He said no — or at any rate 
they never exchanged more than a couple of words. 
There was some constraint between them. For in- 
stance, on that very occasion, when Mrs. Anthony 
came out they did look at each other; the captain's 
eyes indeed followed her till she' sat down; but he did 
not speak to her; he did not approach her; and after- 
wards left the deck without turning his head her way 
after this first silent exchange of glances. 

"I asked Mr. Powell what did he do then, the captain 
being out of the way. 'I went over and talked to 
Mrs. Anthony. I was thinking that it must be very 
dull for her. She seemed to be such a stranger to the 

"'The father was there of course?' 

"'Always,' said Powell. 'He was always there 
sitting on the skylight, as if he were keeping watch 
over her. And I think,' he added, 'that he was worry- 
ing her. Not that she showed it in any way. Mrs. 
Anthony was always very quiet and always ready to 
look one straight in the face.' 

"'You talked together a lot?' I pursued my inquiries. 

"'She mostly let me talk to her,' confessed Mr. 
Powell. 'I don't know that she was very much in- 
terested—but still she let me. She never cut me 


"All the sympathies of Mr. Powell were for Flora 
Anthony, nee de Barral. She was the only human 
being younger than himself on board that ship, since the 
Ferndale carried no boys and was manned by a full 
crew of able seamen. Yes! their youth had created 
a sort of bond between them. Mr. Powell's open 
countenance must have appeared to her distinctly 
pleasing amongst the mature, rough, crabbed or even 
inimical faces she saw around her. With the warm 
generosity of his age young Powell was on her side, as it 
were, even before he knew that there were sides to be 
taken on board that ship, and what this taking sides 
Was about. There was a girl. A nice girl. He asked 
himself no questions. Flora de Barral was not so 
much younger in years than himself; but for some rea- 
son, perhaps by contrast with the accepted idea of a 
captain's wife, he could not regard her otherwise but as 
an extremely youthful creature. At the same time, 
apart from her exalted position, she exercised over him 
the supremacy a woman's earlier maturity gives her 
over a young man of hef own age. As a matter of 
fact we can see that, without ever having more than 
half an hour's consecutive conversation together, and 
the distances duly preserved, these two were becoming 
friends — under the eye of the old man, I suppose. 

"How he first got in touch with his captain's wife 
Powell relates in this way. It was long before his mem- 
orable conversation with the mate and shortly after 
getting clear of the channel. It was gloomy weather; 
dead head wind, blowing quite half a gale; the Ferndale 
under reduced sail was stretching close-hauled across 
the track of the homeward-bound ships,' just moving 
through the water and no more, since there was no 
object in pressing her and the weather looked threaten- 
ing. About ten o'clock at night he was alone on the 


poop, in charge, keeping well aft by the weather fail 
and staring to windward, when amongst the white, 
breaking seas, under the black sky, he made out the 
lights of a ship. He watched them for some time. She 
was running dead before the wind, of course. She will 
pass jolly close — he said to himself; and then suddenly 
he felt a great mistrust of that approaching ship. She's 
heading straight for us — he thought. It was not his 
business to get out of the way. On the contrary. 
And his uneasiness grew by the recollection of the forty 
tons of dynamite in the body of the Ferndale; not the 
sort of cargo one thinks of with equanimity in connexion 
with a threatened collision. He gazed at the two small 
lights in the dark immensity filled with the angry noise 
of the seas. They fascinated him till their plainness 
to his sight gave him a conviction that there was danger 
there. He knew in his mind what to do in emergency 
but very properly he felt that he must call the captain 
at once. 

"He crossed the deck in one bound, By the im- 
memorial custom and usage of the sea the captain's 
room is on the starboard side. You would just as soon 
expect your captain to have his nose at the back of his 
head as to have his stateroom on the port side of the 
ship. Powell forgot all about the direction on that 
point given him by the chief. He flew over as I said, 
stamped with his foot and then putting his face to 
the cowl of the big ventilator shouted down there: 
'Please come on deck, sir,' in a voice which was not 
trembling or scared but which we may call fairly ex- 
pressive. There could not be a mistake as to the ur- 
gence of the call. But instead of the expected alert 
'All right!' and the sound of a rush down there, he 
heard only a faint exclamation — then silence. 

"Think of his astonishment! He remained there, 


his ear in the cowl of the ventilator, his eyes fastened on 
those menacing sidelights dancing on the gusts of wind 
which swept the angry darkness of the sea. It was as 
though he had waited an hour but it was something 
much less than a minute before he fairly bellowed into 
the wide tube 'Captain Anthony!' An agitated 'What 
is it?' was what he heard down there in Mrs. Anthony's 
voice, light rapid footsteps. . . . Why didn't she 
try to wake him up? 'I want the captain, ' he shouted, 
then gave it up, making a dash at the companion where 
a blue light was kept, resolved to act for himself. 

"On the way he glanced at the helmsman whose face 
lighted up by the binnacle lamps was calm. He said 
rapidly to him : ' Stand by to spin that helm up at the 
first word.' The answer 'Aye, aye, sir,' was delivered 
in a steady voice. Then Mr. Powell, after a shout for 
the watch on deck to 'lay aft,' ran to the ship's side 
and struck the blue light on the rail. 

"A sort of nasty little spitting of sparks was all that 
came. The light (perhaps affected by damp) had 
failed to ignite. The time of all these various acts 
must be counted in seconds. Powell confessed to 
me that at this failure he experienced a paralysis of 
thought, of voice, of limbs. The unexpectedness of 
this misfire positively overcame his faculties. It was 
the only thing for which his imagination was not pre- 
pared. It was knocked clean over. When it got up 
it was with the suggestion that he must do something 
at once or there would be a broadside smash accom- 
panied by the explosion of dynamite, in which both 
ships would be blown up and every soul on board of 
them would vanish off the earth in an enormous flame 
and uproar. 

"He saw the catastrophe happening and at the same 
moment, before he could open his mouth or stir a limb 


to ward off the vision, a voice very near his ear, the 
measured voice of Captain Anthony, said: 'Wouldn't 
light — eh? Throw it down! Jump for the flare-up.' 

"The spring of activity in Mr. Powell was released 
with great force. He jumped. The flare-up was kept 
inside the companion with a box of matches ready to 
hand. Almost before he knew he had moved he was 
diving under the companion slide. ' He got hold of the 
can in the dark and tried to strike a light. But he had 
to press the flareholder to his breast with one arm, his 
fingers were damp and stiff, his hands trembled a little. 
One match broke. Another went out. In its flame 
he saw the colourless face of Mrs. Anthony a little 
below him, standing on the cabin stairs. Her eyes 
which were very close to his (he was in a crouching 
posture on the top step) seemed to burn darkly in the 
vanishing light. On deck the captain's voice was heard 
sudden and unexpectedly sardonic: 'You had better 
look sharp, if you want to be in time.' 

""Let me have the box,' said Mrs. Anthony in a 
hurried and familiar whisper which sounded amused as 
if they had been a couple of children up to some lark 
behind a wall. He was glad of the offer which seemed 
to him very natural, and without ceremony — 

"'Here you are. Catch hold.' 

"Their hands touched in the dark and she took the 
box while he held the paraffin-soaked torch in its iron 
holder. He thought of warning her: 'Look out for' 
yourself.' But before he had the time to finish the- 
sentence the flare blazed up violently between them and 
he saw her throw herself back with an arm across her 
face. 'Hallo,' he exclaimed; only he could not stop 
a moment to ask if she was hurt. He bolted out of the 
companion straight into his captain who took the flare 
from him and held it high ahoye his head. 


" The fierce flame fluttered like a silk flag, throwing an 
angry swaying glare mingled with moving shadows 
over the poop, lighting up the concave surfaces of the 
sails, gleaming on the wet paint of the white rails. 
And young Powell turned his eyes to windward with a 
catch in his breath. 

"The strange ship, a darker shape in the night, did 
not seem to be moving onwards but only to grow more 
distinct right abeam, staring at the Ferndale with one 
green and one red eye which swayed and tossed as if 
they belonged to the restless head of some invisible 
monster ambushed in the night amongst the waves. A 
moment, long like eternity, elapsed, and, suddenly, 
the monster which seemed to take to itself the shape 
of a mountain shut its green eye without as much as a 
preparatory wink. 

"Mr. Powell drew a free breath. 'All right now,' 
said Captain Anthony in a quiet undertone. He gave 
the blazing flare to Powell and walked aft to watch 
the passing of that menace of destruction coming blindly 
with its parti-coloured stare out of a blind night on the 
wings of a sweeping wind. Her very form could be 
distinguished now black and elongated amongst the 
hissing patches of foam bursting along her path. 

"As is always the case with a ship running before 
wind and sea she did riot seem to an onlooker to move 
very fast; but to be progressing indolently in long, leis- 
urely bounds and pauses in the midst of the overtaking 
waves. It was only when actually passing the stern 
within easy hail of the Ferndale that her headlong 
speed became apparent to the eye. With the red light 
shut off and soaring like an immense shadow on the 
crest of a wave she was lost to view in one great, forward 
swing, melting into the Iightless space. 

'"Close shave,' said Captain Anthony in an indiffer- 

320' CHANCE 

— m i 
ent voice just raised enough to be heard in the wind. 
' A blind lot on board that ship. Put out the flare now.' 

"Silently Mr. Powell inverted the holder, smothering 
the flame in the can, bringing about by the mere turn 
of his wrist the fall of darkness upon the poop. And at 
the same time vanished out of his mind's eye the vision 
of another flame enormous and fierce shooting violently 
from a white churned patch of the sea, lighting up the 
very clouds and carrying upwards in its volcanic rush 
flying spars, corpses, the fragments of two destroyed 
ships. It vanished and there was an immense relief. 
He told me he did not know how scared he had been, 
not generally but of that very thing his imagination 
had conjured, till it was all over. He measured it (for 
fear is a great tension)by the feeling of slack weariness 
which came over him all at once. 

"He walked to the companion and stooping low to 
put the flare in its usual place saw in the darkness the 
motionless pale oval of Mrs. Anthony's face. She 
whispered quietly — 

"'Is anything going to happen? What is it?' 

"'It's all over now,' he whispered back. 

"He remained bent low, his head inside the cover 
staring at that white ghostly oval. He wondered she 
had not rushed out on deck. She had remained quietly 
there. This was pluck. Wonderful self-restraint. And 
it was not stupidity on her part. She knew there was 
imminent danger and probably had some notion of its 

'You stayed here waiting for what would come,' 
he murmured admiringly. 

"'Wasn't that the best thing to do?' she asked. 

"He didn't know. Perhaps. He confessed he could 
not have done it. Not he. His flesh and blood could 
not have stood it. He would have felt he must see 


what was coming. Then he remembered that the flare 
might have scorched her face, and expressed his concern. 
"'A bit. Nothing to hurt. Smell the singed hair?' 
"There was a sort of gaiety in her tone. She might 
have been frightened but she certainly was not over- 
come and suffered from no reaction. This confirmed 
and augmented if possible Mr. Powell's good opinion 
of her as a 'jolly girl,' though it seemed to him positively 
monstrous to refer in such terms to one's captain's 
wife. 'But she doesn't look it,' he thought in extenua- 
tion and was going to say something more to her about 
the lighting of that flare when another voice was heard 
in the companion, saying some indistinct words. Its 
tone was contemptuous; it came from below, from the 
bottom of the stairs. It was a voice in the cabin. And 
the only other voice which could be heard in the main 
cabin at this time of the evening was the voice of Mrs. 
Anthony's father. The indistinct white oval sank from 
Mr. Powell's sight so swiftly as to take him by surprise. 
For a moment he hung at the opening of the companion, 
and now that her slight form was no longer obstructing 
the narrow and winding staircase the voices came up 
louder but the words were still indistinct. The old 
gentleman was excited about something and Mrs. 
Anthony was 'managing him' as Powell expressed it. 
They moved away from the bottom of the stairs and 
Powell went away from the companion. Yet he fancied 
he had heard the words 'Lost to me' before he withdrew 
his head. They had been uttered by Mr. Smith. 

"Captain Anthony had not moved away from the* 
taffrail. He remained in the very position he took up 
to watch the other ship go by rolling and swinging all 
shadowy in the uproar of the following seas. He 
stirred not; and Powell keeping near by did not dare 
speak to him» so enigmatical in its contemplation of the 

322, CHANCE 

night did his figure appear to his young eyes : indistihet 
— and in its immobility staring into gloom, the prey 
of some incomprehensible grief, longing or regret. 

"Why is it that the stillness of a human being is often 
so impressive, so suggestive of evil — as if our proper 
fate were a ceaseless agitation? The stillness of Cap- 
tain Anthony became almost intolerable to his second 
officer. Mr. Powell loitering about the skylight wanted 
his captain off the deck now. 'Why doesn't he go be- 
low?' he asked himself impatiently. He ventured a 

"Whether the effect of the cough or not Captain 
Anthony spoke. He did not move the least bit. With 
his back remaining turned to the whole length of the 
ship he asked Mr. Powell with some brusqueness if the 
chief mate had neglected to instruct him that the cap- 
tain was to be found on the port side. 

"'Yes, sir,' said Mr. Powell approaching his back. 
'The mate told me to stamp on the port side when I 
wanted you; but I didn't remember at the moment.' 

'"You should remember,' the captain uttered with 
an effort. Then added mumbling, 'I don't want Mrs. 
Anthony frightened. Don't you see? . . .' 

'"She wasn't this time,' Powell said innocently: 'She 
lighted the flare-up for me, sir.' 

"'This time,' Captain Anthony exclaimed and 
turned round. 'Mrs. Anthony lighted the flare? .Mrs, 
Anthony ! . . .' Powell explained that she was in the 
companion all the time. 

'"All the time,' repeated the captain. It seemed 
queer to Powell that instead of going himself to see, the 
captain should ask him — 

'"Is she there now?' 

"Powell said that she had gone below after the ship 
had passed clear of the Ferndale. Captain Anthony 


made a movement towards the companion himself, 
when Powell added the information: 'Mr. Smith called 
to Mrs. Anthony from the saloon, sir. I believe they 
are talking there now.' 

"He was surprised to see the captain give up the idea 
of going below after all. 

''He began to walk the poop instead regardless of the 
cold, of the damp wind and of the sprays. And yet he 
had nothing on but his sleeping suit and slippers. 
Powell placing himself on the break of the poop kept 
a look-out. When after some time he turned his head 
to steal a glance at his eccentric captain he could not 
see his active and shadowy figure swinging to and fro. 
The second mate of the Ferndale walked aft peering 
about and addressed the seaman who steered. 

'"Captain gone below?' 

"'Yes, sir,' said the fellow who with a quid of tobacco 
bulging out of his left cheek kept his eyes on the com- 
pass card. 'This minute. He laughed.' 
■ "'Laughed,' repeated Powell incredulously. 'Do 
you mean the captain did? You must be mistaken. 
What would he want to laugh for?' 

'"Don't know, sir.' 

" The elderly sailor displayed a profound indifference 
towards human emotions. However, after a longish 
pause he conceded a few words more to the second 
officer's weakness. 'Yes. He was walking the deck 
as usual when suddenly he laughed a little and made 
for the companion. Thought of something funny all at 

"Something funny! That Mr. Powell could not 
believe. He did not ask himself why, at the time. 
Funny thoughts come to men, though, in all sorts of 
situations; they come to all sorts of men. Nevertheless 
Mr. Powell was shocked to learn that Captain Anthony 


had laughed without visible cause on a certain night. 
The impression for some reason was disagreeable. 
And it was then, while finishing his watch, with the 
chilly gusts of wind sweeping at him out of the darkness 
where the short sea of the soundings growled spitefully 
all round the ship, that it occurred to his unsophisticated 
mind that perhaps things are not what they are con- 
fidently expected to be; that it was possible that Cap- 
tain Anthony was not a happy man. ... In so 
far you will perceive he was to a certain extent prepared 
for the apoplectic and sensitive Franklin's lamentations 
about his captain. And though he treated them with 
a contempt which was in a great measure sincere, yet 
he admitted to me that deep down within him an inex- 
plicable and uneasy suspicion that all was not well in 
that cabin, so unusually eut off from the rest of the 
ship, came into being and grew against his Trill. ..." 



Marlow emerged out of the shadow of the book- 
case to get himself a cigar from a box which stood on 
a little table by my side. In the full light of the room 
I saw in his eyes that slightly mocking expression with 
which he habitually covers up his sympathetic impulses 
of mirth and pity before the unreasonable complications 
the idealism of mankind puts into the simple but poig- 
nant problem of conduct on this earth. 

He selected and lit the cigar with affected care, then 
turned upon me. I had been looking at him silently. 

"I suppose," he said, the mockery of his eyes giving 
a pellucid quality to his tone, "that you think it's high 
time I told you something definite. I mean something 
about that psychological cabin mystery of discomfort 
(for it's obvious that it must be psychological) which 
affected so profoundly Mr. Franklin the chief mate, and 
had even disturbed the serene innocence of Mr. Powell, 
the second of the ship Ferndale, commanded by Roder- 
ick Anthony — the son of the poet, you know." 

"You are going to confess now that you have failed 
to find it out," I said in pretended indignation. 

"It would serve you right if I told you that I have. 
But I won't. I haven't failed. I own though that for a 
time I was puzzled. However, I have now seen our 
Powell many times under the most favourable con- 
ditions — and besides I came upon a most unexpected 
source of information .... But never mind that. 


The means don't concern you except in so far as they 
belong to the story. I'll admit that for some time the 
old-maiden-lady-like occupation of putting two and 
two together failed to procure a coherent theory. I 
am speaking now as an investigator — a man of deduc- 
tions. With what we know of Roderick Anthony and 
Flora de Barral I could not deduct an ordinary marital 
quarrel beautifully matured in less than a year — could 
I? If you ask me what is an ordinary marital quarrel 
I will tell you that it is a difference about nothing; I 
mean, these nothings which, as Mr. Powell told us 
when we first met him, shore people are so prone to 
start a row about, and nurse into hatred from an idle 
sense of wrong, from perverted ambition, for spectacular 
reasons too. There are on earth no actors too humble 
and obscure not to have a gallery, that gallery which 
envenoms the play by stealthy jeers, counsels of anger, 
amused comments or words of perfidious compassion. 
However, the Anthonys were free from all demoraliz- 
ing influences. At sea, you know, there is no gallery. 
You hear no tormenting echoes of your own littleness 
there, where either a great elemental voice roars de- 
fiantly under the sky or else an elemental silence seems 
to be part of the infinite stillness of the universe. 

"Remembering Flora de Barral in the depths of moral 
misery, and Roderick Anthony carried away by ? 
gust of tempestuous tenderness, I asked myself, Is it all 
forgotten already? What could they have found to 
estrange them from each other with this rapidity and 
this thoroughness so far from all temptations, in the 
peace of the sea and in an isolation so complete that if it 
had not been for the jealous devotion of the sentimental 
Franklin stimulating the attention of Powell, there 
would have been no record, no evidence of it at all. 

"I must confess at once that it was Flora de Barral 


whom I suspected. In this world as at present organ- 
ized women are the suspected half of the population. 
There are good reasons for that. These reasons are 
so discoverable with a little reflection that it is not worth 
my while to set them out for you. I will only mention 
this: that the part falling to women's share being all 
'influence' has an air of occult and mysterious action, 
something not altogether trustworthy, like all natural 
forces which, for us, work in the dark because of our 
imperfect comprehension. 

"If women were not a force of nature, blind in its 
strength and capricious in its power, they would not be 
mistrusted. As it is one can't help it. You will say 
that this force having been in the person of Flora de 
Barral captured by Anthony , . . Why yes. He had 
dealt with her masterfully. But man has captured 
electricity too. It lights him on his way, it warms his 
home, it will even cook his dinner for him — very much 
like a woman. But what sort of conquest would you 
call it? He knows nothing of it. He has got to be 
mighty careful what he is about with his captive. 
And the greater the demand he makes on it in the ex- 
ultation of his pride the more likely it is to turn on 
him and burn him to a cinder. . . ." 

"A far-fetched enough parallel," I observed coldly 
to Marlow. He had returned to the arm-chair in the 
shadow of the bookcase. "But accepting the meaning 
you have in your mind it reduces itself to the knowledge 
of how to use it. And if you mean that this ravenous 
Anthony " 

"Ravenous is good," interrupted Marlow. "He 
was a-hungering and a-thirsting for femininity to enter 
his life in a way no mere feminist could have the slight- 
est conception of. I reckon that this accounts for much 
of Fyne's disgust with him. Good little Fyne. You 


have no idea what infernal mischief he had worked 
during his call at the hotel. But then who could have 
suspected Anthony of being a heroic creature. There 
are several kinds of heroism and one of them at least is 
idiotic. It is the one which wears the aspect of sublime 
delicacy. It is apparently the one of which the son 
of the delicate poet was capable. 

"He certainly resembled his father, who, by the way, 
wore out two women without any satisfaction to him- 
self, because they did not come up to his supra-refined 
standard of the delicacy which is so perceptible in 
his verses. That's your poet. He demands too much 
from others. The inarticulate son had set up a stan- 
dard for himself with that need for embodying in his 
conduct the dreams, the passion, the impulses the poet 
puts into arrangements of verses, which are dearer 
to him than his own self — and may make his own self 
appear sublime in the eyes of other people, and even 
in his own eyes. 

"Did Anthony wish to appear sublime in his own 
eyes? I should not like to make that charge; though 
indeed there are other, less noble, ambitions at which 
the world does not dare to smile. But I don't think so; 
I do not even think that there was in what he did a 
conscious and lofty confidence in himself, a particularly 
pronounced sense of power which leads men so often 
into impossible or equivocal situations. Looked at 
abstractedly (the way in which truth is often seen in 
its real shape) his life had been a life of solitude and 
silence — and desire. 

"Chance had thrown that girl in his way; and if we 
may smile at his violent conquest of Flora de Barral 
we must admit also that this eager appropriation was 
truly the act of a man of solitude and desire; a man 
also, who, unless a complete imbecile, must have been a 


man of long and ardent reveries wherein the faculty 
of sincere passion matures slowly in the unexplored 
recesses of the heart. And I know also that a passion, 
dominating or tyrannical, invading the whole man 
and subjugating all his faculties to its own unique end, 
may conduct him whom it spurs and drives, into all 
sorts of adventures, to the brink of unfathomable 
dangers, to the limits of folly, and madness, and 

"To the man then of a silence made only more im- 
pressive by the inarticulate thunders and mutters of 
the great seas, an utter stranger to the clatter 6f 
tongues, there comes the muscular little Fyne, the most 
marked representative of that mankind whose voice is 
so strange to him, the husband of his sister, a personal- 
ity standing out from the misty and remote multitude. 
He comes and throws at him more talk than he had 
ever heard boomed out in an hour, and certainly touch- 
ing the deepest things Anthony had ever discovered 
in himself, and flings words like 'unfair' whose very 
sound is abhorrent to him. Unfair! Undue advant- 
age! He! Unfair to that girl? Cruel to her! 

"No scorn could stand against the impression of such 
charges advanced with heat and conviction. They shook 
him. They were yet vibrating in the air of that stuffy 
hotel-room, terrific, disturbing, impossible to get rid of, 
when the door opened and Flora de Barral entered. 

"He did not even notice that she was late. He was 
sitting on a sofa plunged in gloom. Was it true? 
Having himself always said exactly what he meant he 
imagined that people (unless they were liars, which of 
course his brother-in-law could not be) never said more 
than they meant. The deep chest voice of little Fyne 
was still in his ear. 'He knows,' Anthony said to him- 
self. He thought he had better go away and never see 


her again. But she stood there before him accusing 
and appealing. How could he abandon her? That 
was out of the question. She had no one. Or rather 
she had some one. That father. Anthony was will- 
ing to take him at her valuation. This father may have 
been the victim of the most atrocious injustice. But 
what could a man coming out of jail do? An old man 
too. And then — what sort of man? What would 
become of them both? Anthony shuddered slightly 
and the faint smile with which Flora had entered the 
room faded on her lips. She was used to his impetuous 
tenderness. She was no longer afraid of it. But she 
had never seen him look like this before, and she sus- 
pected at once some new cruelty of life. He got up 
with his usual ardour but as if sobered by a momentous 
resolve and said — 

"'No. I can't let you out of my sight. I have seen 
you. You have told me your story. You are honest. • 
You have never told me you loved me.' 

"She waited, saying to herself that he had never 
given her time, that he had never asked her ! And that, 
in truth, she did not know ! 

"I am inclined to believe that she did not. As abun- 
dance of experience is not precisely her lot in life, a 
woman is seldom an expert in matters of sentiment. 
It is the man who can and generally does 'see himself' 
pretty well inside and out. Women's self-possession 
is an outward thing; inwardly they flutter, perhaps be- 
cause they are, or they feel themselves to be, encaged. 
All this speaking generally. In Flora de Barral's 
particular case ever since Anthony had suddenly 
broken his way into her hopeless and cruel existence 
she lived like a person liberated from a condemned 
cell by a natural cataclysm, a tempest, an earthquake; 
not absolutely terrified, because nothing can be worse 


than the eve of execution, but stunned, bewildered— 
abandoning herself passively. She did not want to 
make a sound, to move a limb. She hadn't the strength. 
What was the good? And deep down, almost uncon- 
sciously she was seduced by the feeling of being sup- 
ported by this violence. A sensation she had never 
experienced before in her life. 

"She felt as if this whirlwind were calming down some- 
how! As if this feeling of support, which was tempting 
her to close her eyes deliriously and let herself be car- 
ried on and on into the unknown, undefiled by vile 
experiences, were less certain, had wavered threat- 
eningly. She tried to read something in his face, in 
that energetic kindly face to which she had become 
accustomed so soon. But she was not yet capable 
of understanding its expression. Scared, discouraged 
on the threshold of adolescence, plunged in moral mis- 
ery of the bitterest kind, she had not learned to rea^ — 
not that sort of language. 

"If Anthony's love had been as egoistic as love gen- 
erally is, it would have been greater than the egoism 
of his vanity — or of his generosity, if you like — and 
all this could not have happened. He would not have 
hit upon that renunciation at which one does not know 
whether to grin or shudder. It is true too that then 
his love would not have fastened itself upon the un- 
happy daughter of de Barral. But it was a love born 
of that rare pity which is not akin to contempt because 
rooted in an overwhelmingly strong capacity for ten- 
derness — the tenderness of the fiery predatory kind — 
the tenderness of silent solitary men, the voluntary, 
passionate outcasts of their kind. At the same time 
I am forced to think that his vanity must have been 

"'What big eyes she has/ he said to himself, amazed* 


"No wonder. She was staring at him with all the 
might of her soul awakening slowly from a poisoned 
sleep, in which it could only quiver with pain but could 
neither expand nor move. He plunged into them 
breathless and tense, deep, deep, like a mad sailor taking 
a desperate dive from the masthead into the blue un- 
fathomable sea so many men have execrated and loved 
at the same time. And his vanity was immense. It 
had been touched to the quick by that muscular little 
feminist, Fyne. 'I! I! Take advantage of her help- 
lessness. I! Unfair to that creature — that wisp of 
mist, that white shadow homeless in an ugly dirty 
world. I could blow her away with a breath,' he was 
saying to himself with horror. 'Never!' All the su- 
premely refined delicacy of tenderness, expressed in so 
many fine lines of verse by Carleon Anthony, grew to 
the size of a passion filling with inward sobs the big 
frame of the man who had never in his life read a single 
one of those famous sonnets singing of the most highly 
civilized, chivalrous love, of those sonnets which . . . 
ifou know there's a volume of them. My edition has 
the portrait of the author at thirty, and when I showed 
it to Mr. Powell the other day he exclaimed: 'Wonder- 
ful! One would think this the portrait of Captain 
Anthony himself if . . .' I wanted to know what 
that if was. But Powell could not say. There was 
something — a difference. No doubt there was — in 
fineness perhaps. The father, fastidious, cerebral, 
morbidly shrinking from all contacts, could only sing 
in harmonious numbers of what the son felt with a 
dumb and reckless sincerity. 

"Possessed by most men's touching illusion as to 
the frailness of women and their spiritual fragility, it 
Seemed to Anthony that he would be destroying, break- 


ing something very precious inside that being. In fact 
nothing less than partly murdering her. This seems 
a very extreme effect to flow from Fyne's words. But 
Anthony, unaccustomed to the chatter of the firm 
earth, never stayed to ask himself what value these 
words could have in Fyne's mouth. And indeed the 
mere dark sound of them was utterly abhorrent to his 
native rectitude, sea-salted, hardened in the winds of 
wide horizons, open as the day. 

"He wished to blurt out his indignation, but she re- 
garded him with an expectant air which checked him. 
His visible discomfort made her uneasy. He could only 
repeat, 'Oh, yes. You are perfectly honest. You 
might have, but I daresay you are right. At any rate 
you have never said anything to me which you didn't 

"'Never,' she whispered after a pause. 

"He seemed distracted, choking with an emotion 
she could not understand because it resembled embar- 
rassment, a state of mind inconceivable in that man. 

"She wondered what it was she had said; remember- 
ing that in very truth she had hardly spoken to him 
except when giving him the bare outline of her story 
which he "seemed to have hardly had the patience to 
hear, waving it perpetually aside with exclamations 
of horror and anger, with fiercely sombre mutters 
'Enough! Enough!' and with alarming starts from 
a forced stillness, as though he meant to rush out at 
once and take vengeance on somebody. She was say- 
ing to herself that he caught her words in the air, never 
letting her finish her thought. Honest. Honest. 
Yes, certainly she had been that. Her letter to Mrs. 
Fyne had been prompted by honesty. But she re- 
flected sadly that she had never known what to say to 
him. That perhaps she had nothing to say. 

•334 CHANCE 

"'But you'll find out that I can be honest too,' he 
burst out in a menacing tone she had learned to ap- 
preciate with an amused thrill, 

"She waited for what was coming. But he hung in 
the wind. He looked round the room with disgust as 
if he could see traces on the walls of all the casual ten- 
ants that had ever passed through it. People had 
quarrelled in that room; they had been ill in it, there 
had been misery in that room, wickedness, crime per- 
haps — death most likely. This was not a fit place. 
He snatched up his hat. He had made up his mind. 
The ship — the ship he had known ever since she came 
off the stocks, his home — her shelter — the uncontami- 
nated, honest ship, was the place. 

'"Let us go on board. We'll talk there,' he said. 
'And yr-u will have to listen to me. For whatever 
happens, no matter what they say, I cannot let you 


"You can't say that (misgivings or no misgivings) 
she could have done anything else but go on board. It 
was the appointed business of that morning. During 
the drive he was silent. Anthony was the last man to 
condemn conventionally any human being, to scorn 
and despise even deserved misfortune. He» was ready 
to take old de Barral — the convict — on his daughter's 
valuation without the slightest reserve. But love like 
this, though it may drive one into risky folly by the 
proud consciousness of its own strength, has a sagacity 
of its own. And now, as if lifted up into a higher and 
serene region by its purpose of renunciation, it gave him 
leisure to reflect for the first time in these last few days. 
He said to himself: 'I don't know that man. She does 
not know him either. She was barely sixteen when they 
locked him up. She was a child. What will he say? 
What will he do? No,' he concluded, 'I cannot leave her 


behind with that man who would come into the world 
as if out of a grave.' 

"They went on board in silence, and it was after 
showing her round and when they had returned to the 
saloon that he assailed her in his fiery, masterful fashion. 
At first she did not understand. Then when she under- 
stood that he was giving her her liberty she went stiff 
all over, her hand resting on the edge of the table, her 
face set like a carving of white marble. It was all over. 
It was as that abominable governess had said. She 
was insignificant, contemptible. Nobody could love 
her. Humiliation clung to her like a cold shroud — 
never to be shaken off, unwarmed by this madness of 

"'Yes. Here. Your home. I can't give it to you 
and go away, but it is big enough for us two. Yot\ 
need not be afraid. If you say so I shall not even look 
at you. Remember that grey head of which you have 
been thinking night and day. Where is it going to rest? 
Where else if not here, where nothing evil can touch it. 
Don't you understand that I won't let you buy shelter 
from me at the cost of your very soul? I won't. You 
are too much part of me. I have found myself since 
I came upon you and I would rather sell my own soul 
to the devil than let you go out of my keeping. But 
I must have the right.' 

"He went away brusquely to shut the door leading 
on deck and came back the whole length of the cabin 
repeating — 

"'I must have the legal right. Are you ashamed of 
letting people think you are my wife?' 

"He opened his arms as if to clasp her to his breast 
but mastered the impulse and shook his clenched hands 
at her, repeating : ' I must have the right if only for your 
father's sake, I must have the right. Where would 


you take him? To that infernal cardboard-box maker? 
I don't know what keeps me from hunting him up in 
his virtuous home and bashing his head in. I can't 
bear the thought. Listen to me, Flora! Do you hear 
what I am saying to you? You are not so proud that 
you can't understand that I as a man have my pride 

"He saw a tear glide down her white cheek from 
under each lowered eyelid. Then, abruptly, she walked 
out of the cabin. He stood for a moment, concentrated, 
reckoning his own strength, interrogating his heart, be- 
fore he followed her hastily. Already she had reached 
the wharf. 

"At the sound of his pursuing footsteps her strength 
failed her. Where could she escape from this? From 
this new perfidy of life taking upon itself the form of 
magnanimity. His very voice was changed. The 
sustaining whirlwind had let her down, to stumble on 
again, weakened by the fresh stab, bereft of moral 
support which is. wanted in life more than all the chari- 
ties of material help. She had never had it. Never. 
Not from the Fynes. But where to go? Oh yes, this 
dock — a placid sheet of water close at hand. But 
there was that old man with whom she had walked hand 
in hand on the parade by the sea. She seemed to see 
him coming to meet her, pitiful, a little greyer, with 
an appealing look and an extended, tremulous arm. It 
was for her now to take the hand of that wronged man 
more helpless than a child. But where could she lead 
him? Where? And what was she to say to him? What 
words of cheer, of courage and of hope? There were 
none. Heaven and earth were mute, unconcerned at 
their meeting. But this other man was coming up 
behind her. He was very close now. His fiery person 
seemed to radiate heat, a tingling vibration into the 


atmosphere. She was exhausted, careless, afraid to 
stumble, ready to fall. She fancied she could hear his 
breathing. A wave of languid warmth overtook her, 
she seemed to lose touch with the ground under her 
feet; and when she felt him slip his hand under her arm 
she made no attempt to disengage herself from that 
grasp which closed upon her limb, insinuating and firm. 

"He conducted her through the dangers of the quay- 
side. Her sight was dim. A moving truck was like a 
mountain gliding by. Men passed by as if in a mist; 
and the buildings, the sheds, the unexpected open spaces, 
the skips, had strange, distorted, dangerous shapes. 
She said to herself that it was good not to be bothered 
with what all these things meant in the scheme of crea- 
tion (if indeed anything had a meaning), or were just 
piled-up matter without any sense. She felt how she 
had always been unrelated to this world. She was hang- 
ing on to it merely by that one arm grasped firmly just 
above the elbow. It was a captivity. So be it. Till 
they got out into the street and saw the hansom waiting 
outside the gates Anthony spoke only once, beginning 
brusquely but in a much gentler tone than she had ever 
heard from his lips. 

'"Of course I ought to have known that you could not 
care for a man like me, a stranger. Silence gives con- 
sent. Yes? Eh? I don't want any of that sort of 
consent. And unless some day you find you can speak 
. . . No! No! I shall never ask you. For all 
the sign I will give you you may go to your grave with 
sealed lips. But what I have said you must do!' 

"He bent his head over her with tender care. At the 
same time she felt her arm pressed and shaken incon- 
spicuously, but in an undeniable manner. 'You must 
do it.' A little shake that no passer-by could notice; 
and this was going on in a deserted part of the dock. 


'It must be done. You are listening to me — eh? or 
would you go again to my sister?' 

"His ironic tone, perhaps from want of use, had an 
awful grating ferocity. 

"'Would you go to her?' he pursued in the same 
strange voice. 'Your best friend! And say nicely — 
I am sorry. Would you? No! You couldn't. There 
are things that even you, poor dear lost girl, couldn't 
stand. Eh? Die rather. That's it. Of course. Or 
can you be thinking of taking your father to that infernal 
cousin's house? No! Donl speak. I can't bear to 
think of it. I would follow you there and smash the 
door ! ' 

"The catch in his voice astonished her by its resem- 
blance to a sob. It frightened her too. The thought 
that came to her head was: 'He mustn't.' He was 
putting her into the hansom. 'Oh! He mustn't, he 
mustn't.' She was still more frightened by the dis- 
covery that he was shaking all over. Bewildered, 
shrinking into the far-off corner, avoiding his eyes, she 
yet saw the quivering of his mouth and made a wild 
attempt at a smile, which broke the rigidity of her lips 
and set her teeth chattering suddenly. 

'"I am not coming with you,' he was saying. 'I'll 
tell the man ... I can't. Better not. What is it? 
Are you cold? Come! What is it? Only to go to a 
confounded stuffy room, a hole of an office. Not a 
quarter of an hour. I'll come for you — in ten days. 
Don't think of it too much. Think of no man, woman, 
or child of all that silly crowd cumbering the ground. 
Don't think of me either. Think of yourself. Ha! 
Nothing will be able to touch you then — at last. Say 
nothing. Don't move. I'll have everything ar- 
ranged; and as long as you don't hate the sight of me— 
and you don't— there's nothing to be frightened about. 


One of their silly offices with a couple of ink-slingers 
of no consequence; poor, scribbling devils.' 

"The hansom drove away with Flora de Barral inside., 
without movement, without thought, only too glad to 
rest, to be alone and still moving away without effort 
in solitude and silence. 

"Anthony roamed the streets for hours without being 
able to remember in the evening where he had been — ■ 
in the manner of a happy and exulting lover. But no- 
body could have thought so from his face, which bore no 
signs of blissful anticipation. Exulting indeed he was, 
but it was a special sort of exultation which seemed to 
take him by the throat like an enemy. 

"Anthony's last words to Flora referred to the Reg- 
istry Office where they were married ten days later. 
During that time Anthony saw no one or anything, 
though he went about restlessly, here and there, 
amongst men and things. This special state is peculiar 
to common lovers, who are known to have no eyes for 
anything except for the contemplation, actual or in- 
ward, of one human form which for them contains the 
soul of the whole world in all its beauty, perfection, 
variety and infinity. It must be extremely pleasant. 
But felicity was denied to Roderick Anthony's contem- 
plation. He was not a common sort of lover; and he 
was punished for it as if Nature (which it is said abhors 
a vacuum) were so very conventional as to abhor every 
sort of exceptional conduct. Roderick Anthony had 
begun already to suffer. That is why perhaps he was 
so industrious in going about amongst his fellow-men 
who would have been surprised and humiliated had 
they known how little solidity and even existence they 
had in his eyes. But they could not suspect anything 
so queer. They saw nothing extraordinary in him dur- 
ing that fortnight. The proof of this is that they were 


willing to transact business with him. Obviously 
they were; since it is then that the offer of chartering 
his ship for the special purpose of proceeding to the 
Western Islands was put in his way by a firm of ship- 
brokers who had no doubt of his sanity. 

"He probably looked sane enough for all the practical 
purposes of commercial life. But I am not sO certain 
that he really was quite sane at that time. 

"However, he jumped at the offer. Providence 
itself was offering him this opportunity to accustom 
the girl to sea-life by a comparatively short trip. This 
was the time when everything that happened, every- 
thing he heard, casual words, unrelated phrases, seemed 
a provocation or an encouragement, confirmed him in 
his resolution. And indeed to be busy with material 
affairs is the best preservative against reflection, fears, 
doubts — all these things which stand in the way of 
achievement. I suppose a fellow proposing to cut his 
throat would experience a sort of relief while occupied 
in stropping his razor carefully. 

"And Anthony was extremely careful in preparing 
for himself and for the luckless Flora an impossible 
existence. He went about it with no more tremors 
than if he had been stuffed with rags or made of iron 
instead of flesh and blood, an existence, mind you, 
which, on shore, in the thick of mankind, of varied 
interests, of distractions, of infinite opportunities to pre- 
serve your distance* from each other, is hardly con- 
ceivable; but on board ship, at sea, en tete-a-tete for days 
and weeks and months' together, could mean nothing 
but mental torture, an exquisite absurdity of torment. 
He was a simple soul. His hopelessly masculine ingenu- 
ousness is displayed in a touching way by his care to 
procure some woman to attend on Flora. The condi- 
tion of guaranteed perfect respectability gave him mo* 


ments of anxious thought. When he remembered sud- 
denly his steward's wife he must have exclaimed eureka 
with particular exultation. One does not like to call 
Anthony an ass. But really to put any woman within 
scenting distance of such a secret and suppose that she 
would not track it out ! 

"No woman, however simple, could be as ingenuous 
as that. I don't know how Flora de Barral qualified 
him in her thoughts when he told her of having done 
this amongst other things intended to make her com- 
fortable. I should think that, for all her simplicity, she 
must have been appalled. He stood before her on the 
appointed day outwardly calmer than she had ever 
seen him before. And this very calmness, that scrupu- 
lous attitude which he felt bound in honour to assume 
then and for ever, unless she would condescend to 
make a sign at some future time, added to the heavi- 
ness of her heart innocent of the most pardonable 

"The night before she had slept better than she had 
done for the past ten nights. Both youth and weariness 
will assert themselves in the end against the tyranny 
of nerve-racking stress. She had slept, but she woke 
up with her eyes full of tears. There were no traces of 
them when she met him in the shabby little parlour 
downstairs. She had swallowed them up. She was not 
going to let him see. She felt bound in honour to ac- 
cept the situation for ever and ever unless . . . Ah, 
unless . . . She dissembled all her sentiments, but 
it was not duplicity on her part. All she wanted was 
to get at the truth; to see what would come of it. 

"She beat him at his own honourable game and the 
thoroughness of her serenity disconcerted Anthony a 
bit. It was he who stammered when it came to talk- 
ing. The suppressed fierceness of his character carried 


him on after the first word or two masterfully enough. 
But it was as if they both had taken a bite of the same 
bitter fruit. He was thinking with mournful regret 
not unmixed with surprise: 'That fellow Fyne has been 
telling me the truth. She does not care for me a bit.' 
It humiliated him and also increased his compassion 
for the girl who in this darkness of life, buffeted and 
despairing, had fallen into the grip of his stronger will, 
abandoning herself to his arms as on a night of ship- 
wreck. Flora on her side with partial insight (for 
women are never blind with the complete masculine 
blindness) looked on him with some pity; and she felt 
pity for herself too. It was a rejection, a casting 
out; nothing new to her. But she who supposed all her 
sensibility dead by this time, discovered in herself a 
resentment of this ultimate betrayal. She had no 
resignation for this one. With a sort of mental sullen- 
ness she said to herself: 'Well, I am here. I am here 
without any nonsense. It is not my fault that I am 
a mere worthless object of pity.' 

"And these things which she could tell herself with a 
clear conscience served her better than the passionate 
obstinacy of purpose could serve Roderick Anthony. 
She was much more sure of herself than he was. Such 
are the advantages of mere rectitude over the most ex- 
alted generosity. 

"And so they went out to get married, the people of 
the house where she lodged having no suspicion of Any- 
thing of the sort. They were only excited at a 'gentle- 
man friend ' (a very fine man too) calling on Miss Smith 
for the first time since she had come to live in the house. 
When she returned, for she did come back alone, there 
were allusions made to that outing. She had to take 
her meals with these rather vulgar people. The woman 
of the house, a scraggy, genteel person, tried even to 


provoke confidences. Flora's white face with the deep 
blue eyes did not strike their hearts as it did the heart 
of Captain Anthony, as the very face of the suffering 
world. Her pained reserve had no power to awe them 
into decency. 

"Well, she returned alone— as in fact might have been 
expected. After leaving the Registry Office Flora de 
Barral and Roderick Anthony had gone for a walk in a 
park. It must have been an East-End park, but I am 
not sure. Anyway that's what they did. It was a 
sunny day. He said to her: 'Everything I have in the 
world belongs to you. I have seen to that without 
troubling my brother-in-law. They have no call to 

"She walked with her hand resting lightly on his 
arm. He had offered it to her on coming out of the 
Registry Office, and she had accepted it silently. Her 
head drooped, she seemed to be turning matters over 
in her mind. She said, alluding to the Fynes: 'They 
have been very good to me.' At that he exclaimed — 

"'They have never understood you. Well, not 
properly. My sister is not a bad woman, but . . .' 

"Flora didn't protest; asking herself whether he im- 
agined that he himself understood her so much better. 
Anthony dismissing his family out of his thoughts went 
on: 'Yes. Everything is yours. I have kept nothing 
back. As to the piece of paper we have just got fro,m 
that miserable quill-driver if it wasn't for the law, I 
wouldn't mind if you tore it up here, now, on this spot. 
But don't you do it. Unless you should some day feel 
that ' 

"He choked, unexpectedly. She, reflective, hesi- 
tated a moment then making up her mind bravely : 

"'Neither am I keeping anything back from you.' 

"She had said it! But he in his blind generosity 


assumed that she was alluding to her deplorable history 
and hastened to mutter — 

"'Of course! Of course! Say no more. I have been 
lying awake thinking of it all no end of times.' 

"He made a movement with his other arm as if re- 
straining himself from shaking an indignant fist at the 
universe; and she never even attempted to look at him. 
His voice sounded strangely, incredibly lifeless in com- 
parison with these tempestuous accents that in the 
broad fields, in the dark garden had seemed to shake 
the very earth under her weary and hopeless feet. 

"She regretted them. Hearing the sigh which es- 
caped her Anthony instead of shaking his fist at the 
universe began to pat her hand resting on his arm and 
then desisted, suddenly, as though he had burnt him- 
self. Then after a silence — 

"'You will have to go by yourself to-morrow. I 
. . . No, I think I mustn't come. Better not. What 
you two will have to say to each others ' 

'She interrupted him quickly- 


'Father is an innocent man. He was cruelly 

"'Yes. That's why,' Anthony insisted earnestly. 
'And you are the only human being that can make it up 
to him. You alone must reconcile him with the world 
if anything can. But of course you shall. You'll have 
to find words. Oh you'll know. And then the sight 
of you, alone, would soothe ' 

'"He's the gentlest of men,' she interrupted again. 

"Anthony shook his head. 'It would take no end 
of generosity, no end of gentleness, to forgive such a 
dead set. For my part I would have liked better to 
have been killed and done .with at once. It could not 
have been worse for you — and I suppose it was of you 
t,b»t he was thinking most while those infernal lawyers 


were badgering him in court. Of you. And now 1 
think of it perhaps the sight of you may bring it all 
back to him. All these years, all these years — and 
you his child left alone in the world. I would have 
gone crazy. For even if he had done wrong — — ' 

" 'But he hasn't,' insisted Flora de Barral with a quite 
unexpected fierceness. 'You mustn't even suppose it. 
Haven't you read the accounts of the trial?' 

"'I am not supposing anything,' Anthony defended 
himself. He just remembered hearing of the trial. He 
assured her that he was away from England, the second 
voyage of the Ferndale. He was crossing the Pacific 
from Australia at the time and didn't see any papers 
for weeks and weeks. He interrupted himself to sug- 

'"You had better tell him at once that you are 

"He had stammered a little, and Flora de Barral 
uttered a deliberate and concise 'Yes.' 

"A short silence ensued. She withdrew her hand 
from his arm. They stopped. Anthony looked as if a 
totally unexpected catastrophe had happened. 

"'Ah,' he said. 'You mind . . .' 

"'No! I think I had better,' she murmured. 

" 'I dare say. I dare say. Bring him along straight 
on board to-morrow. Stop nowhere.' 

"She had a moment of vague gratitude, a momen- 
tary feeling of peace which she referred to the man be- 
fore her. She looked up at Anthony. His face was 
sombre. He was miles away and muttered as if to 
himself — 

"'Where could he want to stop though?' 

"'There's not a single being on earth that I would 
want to look at his dear face now, to whom I would 
willingly take him/ she said, extending her hand frankly 


and with a slight break in her voice, 'but you — Roder- 

"He took that hand, felt it very small and delicate 
in his broad palm. 

"'That's right. That's right,' he said with a con- 
scious and hasty heartiness and, as if suddenly ashamed 
of the sound of his voice, turned half round and abso- 
lutely walked away from the motionless girl. He even 
resisted the temptation to look back till it was too late. 
The gravel path lay empty to the very gate of the park. 
She was gone — vanished. He had an impression that 
he had missed some sort of chance. He felt sad. That 
excited sense of his own conduct which had kept him 
up for the last ten days buoyed him no more. He had 
succeeded ! 

"He strolled on aimlessly, a prey to gentle melancholy. 
He walked and walked. There were but few people 
about in this breathing space of a poor neighbourhood. 
Under certain conditions of life there is precious little 
time left for mere breathing. But still a few here and 
there were indulging in that luxury; yet few as they were 
Captain Anthony, though the least exclusive of men, 
resented their presence. Solitude had been his best 
friend. He wanted some place where he could sit down 
and be alone. And in his need his thoughts turned to 
the sea which had given him so much of that congenial 
solitude. There, if always with his ship (but that was 
an integral part of him), he could always be as solitary 
as he chose. Yes. Get out to sea ! 

"The night of the town with its strings of lights, rigid, 
and crossed like a net of flames thrown over the sombre 
, immensity of walls, closed round him, with its artificial 
brilliance overhung by an emphatic blackness, its un- 
natural animation of a restless, overdriven humanity. 
His thoughts which somehow were inclined to pity every 


passing figure, every single person glimpsed under a 
street lamp, fixed themselves at last upon a figure which 
certainly could not have been seen under the lamps on 
that particular night. A figure unknown to him. A 
figure shut up within high unscalable walls of stone or 
bricks till next morning. . . . The figure of Flora 
de Barral's father. De Barral the financier — the convict. 

"There is something in that word with its suggestions 
of guilt and retribution which arrests the thought. We 
feel ourselves in the presence of the power of organized 
society — a thing mysterious in itself and still more mys- 
terious in its effect. Whether guilty or innocent, it 
was as if old de Barral had been down to the Nether 
Regions. Impossible to imagine what he would bring 
out from there to the light of this world of uncondemned 
men. What would he think? What would he have 
to say? And what was one to say to him? 

"Anthony, a little awed, as one is by a range of feel- 
ings stretching beyond one's grasp, comforted himself 
by the thought that probably the old fellow would have 
little to say. He wouldn't want to talk about it. No 
man would. It must have been a real hell to him. 

"And then Anthony, at the end of the day in which 
he had gone through a marriage ceremony with Flora 
de Barral, ceased to think of Flora's father except, as in 
some sort, the captive of his triumph. He turned to 
the mental contemplation of the white, delicate and 
appealing face with great blue eyes which he had seen 
weep and wonder and look profoundly at him, sometimes 
with incredulity, sometimes with doubt and pain, but 
always irresistible in the power to find their way right 
into his breast, to stir there a deep response which was 
something more than love — he said to himself — as men 
understand it. More? Or was it only something 
other? Yes. It was something other. More or less. 

348 CHANCE" 

Something as incredible as the fulfilment of an amazing 
and startling dream in which he could take the world 
in his arms — all the suffering world — not to possess 
its pathetic fairness but to console and cherish its sor- 

"Anthony walked slowly to the ship and that night 
slept without dreams. 



"Renovated certainly the saloon of the Ferndale was 
to receive the 'strange woman.' The mellowness of 
its old-fashioned, tarnished decoration was gone. And 
Anthony looking round saw the glitter, the gleams, the 
colour of new things, untried, unused, very bright — too 
bright. The workmen had gone only last night; and 
the last piece of work they did was the hanging of the 
heavy curtains which looped midway the length of the 
saloon — divided it in two if released, cutting off the 
after end with its companion-way leading direct on the 
poop, from the forepart with its outlet on the deck; 
making a privacy within a privacy, as though Captain 
Anthony could not place obstacles enough between his 
new happiness and the men who shared his life at sea. 
He inspected that arrangement with an approving 
eye then made a particular visitation of the whole, end- 
ing by. opening a door which led into a large state-room 
made of two knocked into one. It was very well fur- 
nished and had, instead of the usual bedplace of such 
cabins, an elaborate swinging cot of the latest pattern. 
Anthony tilted it a little by way of trial. 'The old 
man will be very comfortable in here,' he said to himself, 
and stepped back into the saloon closing the door 
gently. Then another thought occurred to him obvious 
under the circumstances but strangely enough present- 
ing itself for the first time. 'Jove! Won't he get a 
shock,' thought Roderick Anthony. 


350^ CHANCE^ 

"He went hastily on deck. 'Mr. Franklin, Mr. 
Franklin.' The mate was not very far. 'Oh! Here you 
are. Miss . . . Mrs. Anthony'll be coming on board 
presently. Just give me a call when you see the cab.' 

"Then, without noticing the gloominess of the mate's 
countenance, he went in again. Not a friendly word, 
not a professional remark, or a small joke, not as much 
as a simple and inane 'fine day.' Nothing. Just 
turned about and went in. 

"We know that, when the moment came, he thought 
better of it and decided to meet Flora's father in that 
privacy of the main cabin which he had been so care- 
ful to arrange. Why Anthony appeared to shrink from 
the contact, he who was sufficiently self-confident not 
only to face but to absolutely create a situation almost 
insane in its audacious generosity, is difficult to explain. 
Perhaps when he came on the poop for a glance he found 
that man so different outwardly from what he expected 
that he decided to meet him for the first time out of 
everybody's sight. Possibly the general secrecy of his 
relation to the girl might have influenced him. Truly 
he may well have been dismayed. That man's coming 
brought him face to face with the necessity to speak 
and act a lie; to appear what he was not and what he 
could never be, unless, unless - 

"In short, we'll say if you like that for various reasons 
all having to do with the delicate rectitude of his nature, 
Roderick Anthony (a man of whom his chief mate used 
to say: he doesn't know what fear is) was frightened. 
There is a Nemesis which overtakes generosity too, 
like all the other imprudences of men who dare to be 
lawless and proud . . . " 

"Why do you say this?" I inquired, for Marlow had 
stopped abruptly and kept silent in the shadow of the 


"I say this because that man whom chance had 
thrown in Flora's way was both: lawless and proud. 
Whether he knew anything about it or not it does not 
matter. Very likely not. One may fling a glove in 
the face of nature and in the face of one's own moral 
endurance quite innocently, with a simplicity which 
wears the aspect of perfectly Satanic conceit. However, 
as I have said, it does not matter. It's a transgression 
all the same and has got to be paid for in the usual way. 
But never mind that. I paused because, like Anthony, 
I find a difficulty, a sort of dread in coming to grips 
with old de Barral. 

"You remember I had a glimpse of him once. He 
was not an imposing personality: tall, thin, straight, 
stiff, faded, moving with short steps and with a gliding 
motion, speaking in an even low voice. When the 
sea was rough he wasn't much seen on deck — at least 
not walking. He caught hold of things then and drag- 
ged himself along as far as the after skylight where he 
would sit for hours. Our, then young, friend offered 
once to assist him, and this service was the first begin- 
ning of a sort of friendship. He clung hard to one — 
Powell says, with no figurative intention. Powell was 
always on the lookout to assist, and to assist mainly 
Mrs. Anthony, because he clung so jolly hard to her 
that Powell was afraid of her being dragged down not- 
withstanding that she soon became very sure-footed 
in all sorts of weather. And Powell was the only one 
ready to assist at hand because Anthony (by that time) 
seemed to be afraid to come near them; the unforgiving 
Franklin always looked wrathfully the other way; 
the boatswain, if up there, acted likewise but sheepishly; 
and any hands that happened to be on the poop (a 
feeling spreads mysteriously all over a ship) shunned 
him as though he had been the devil. 


"We know how he arrived on board. For my part 
I know so little of prisons that I haven't the faintest 
notion how one leaves them. It seems as abominable 
an operation as the other, the shutting up with its 
mental suggestions of bang, snap, crash and the empty 
silence outside — where an instant before you were — 
you were — and now no longer are. Perfectly devilish. 
And the release! I don't know which is worse. How 
do they do it? Pull the string, door flies open, man 
flies through: Out you go! Adios! And in the space 
where a second before you were not, in the silent space 
there is a figure going away, limping. Why limping? 
I don't know. That's how I see it. One has a notion 
of a maiming, crippling process; of the individual 
coming back damaged in some subtle way. I admit it 
is a fantastic hallucination, but I can't help it. Of 
course I know that the proceedings of the best machine- 
made humanity are employed with judicious care and 
so on. I am absurd, no doubt, but still . . . Oh, 
yes, it's idiotic. When I pass one of these places . . . 
did you notice that there is something infernal about 
the aspect of every individual stone or brick of them, 
something malicious as if matter were enjoying its re- 
venge of the contemptuous spirit of man. Did you 
notice? You didn't? Eh? Well, I am perhaps a little 
mad on that point. When I pass one of these places 
I must avert my eyes. I couldn't have gone to meet de 
Barral. I should have shrunk from the ordeal. You'll 
notice that it looks as if Anthony (a brave man indubit- 
ably) had shirked it too. Little Fyne's flight of fancy 
picturing three people in the fatal four-wheeler — you 
remember? — went wide of the truth. There were only 
two people in the four-wheeler. Flora did not shrink. 
Women can stand anything. The dear creatures have 
no imagination when it comes to solid facts of life. In 


sentimental regions — I won't say. It's another thing 
altogether. There they shrink from or rush to embrace 
ghosts of their own creation just the same as any fool- 
man would. 

"No. I suppose the girl Flora went on that errand 
reasonably. And then, why! This was the moment 
for which she had lived. It was her only point of con- 
tact with existence. Oh, yes. She had been assisted 
bytheFynes. And kindly. Certainly. Kindly. But 
that's not enough. There is a kind way of assisting 
our fellow-creatures which is enough to break their 
hearts while it saves their outer envelope. How cold, 
how infernally cold she must have felt — unless when she 
was made to burn with indignation or shame. Man, 
we know, cannot live by bread alone, but hang me if I 
don't believe that some women could live by love alone. 
If there be a flame in human beings fed by varied in- 
gredients earthly and spiritual which tinge it in differ- 
ent hues, then I seem to see the colour of theirs. It is 
azure . . . What the devil are you laughing at? ..." 

Marlow jumped up and strode out of the shadow as if 
lifted by indignation, but there was the flicker of a smile 
on his lips. "You say I don't know women. Maybe. 
It's just as well not to come too close to the shrine. 
But I have a clear notion of woman. In all of them, 
termagant, flirt, crank, washerwoman, blue-stocking, 
outcast and even in the ordinary fool of the ordinary 
commerce there is something left, if only a spark. And 
when there is a spark there can always be a flame . . ." 

He went back into the shadow and sat down again. 

"I don't mean to say that Flora de Barral was one 
of the sort that could live by love alone. In fact she 
had managed to live without. But still, in the distrust 
of herself and of others she looked for love, any kind of 
love, as women will. And that confounded jail was the 


only spot where she could see it-— for she had no reason 
to distrust her father. 

"She was there in good time. I see her gazing 
across the road at these walls which are, properly 
speaking, awful. You do indeed seem to feel along 
the very lines and angles of the unholy bulk, the fall 
of time, drop by drop, hour by hour, leaf by leaf, with a 
gentle and implacable slowness. And a voiceless mel- 
ancholy comes over one, invading, overpowering like 
a dream, penetrating and mortal like poison. 

"When de Barral came out she experienced a sort of 
shock to see that he was exactly as she remembered him. 
Perhaps a little smaller. Otherwise unchanged. You 
come out in the same clothes, you know. I can't tell 
whether he was looking for her. No doubt he was. 
Whether he recognized her? Very likely. She crossed 
the road and at once there was reproduced at a distance 
of years, as if by some mocking witchcraft, the sight so 
familiar on the Parade at Brighton of the financier de 
Barral walking with his only daughter. One comes out 
of prison in the same clothes one wore on the day of 
condemnation, no matter how long one has been put 
away there. Oh, they last! They last! But there is 
something which is preserved by prison life even better 
than one's discarded clothing. It is the force, the vivid- 
ness of one's sentiments. A monastery will do that too; 
but in the unholy claustration of a jail you are thrown 
back wholly upon yourself — for God and Faith are not 
there. The people outside disperse their affections, 
you hoard yours, you nurse them into intensity. What 
they let slip, what they forget in the movement and 
changes of free life, you hold on to, amplify, exaggerate 
into a rank growth of memories. They can look with a 
smile at the troubles and pains of the past; but you 
can't. Old pains keep on gnawing at your heart, old 


desires, old deceptions, old dreams, assailing you in 
the dead stillness of your present where nothing moves 
except the irrecoverable minutes of your life. 

"De Barral was out and, for a time speechless, being 
led away almost before he had taken possession of the 
free world, by his daughter. Flora controlled herself 
well. They walked along quickly for some distance. 
The cab had been left round the corner — round several 
corners for all I know. He was flustered, out of breath, 
when she helped him in and followed herself. Inside 
that rolling box, turning towards that recovered pres- 
ence with her heart too full for words she felt the desire 
of tears she had managed to keep down abandon her 
suddenly, her half-mournful, half-triumphant exulta- 
tion subside, every fibre of her body, relaxed in tender- 
ness, go stiff in the close look she took at his face. He 
was different. There was something. Yes, there was 
something between them, something hard and impal- 
pable, the ghost of these high walls. 

"How old he was, how unlike! 

"She shook off this impression, amazed and fright- 
ened by it of course. And remorseful too. Naturally. 
She threw her arms round his neck. He returned that 
hug awkwardly as if not in perfect control of his arms, 
with a fumbling and uncertain pressure. She hid her 
face on his breast. It was as though she were pressing 
it against a stone. They released each other and pres- 
ently the cab was rolling along at a jog-trot to the 
docks with those two people as far apart as they could 
get from each other, in opposite corners. 

"After a silence given up to mutual examination he 
uttered his first coherent sentence outside the walls of 
the prison. 

"'What has done for me was envy. Envy. There 
was a lot of them just bursting with it every time they 


looked my way. I was doing too well. So they went 
to the Public Prosecutor ' 

"She said hastily: 'Yes! Yes! I know,' and he 
glared as if resentful that the child had turned into a 
young woman without waiting for him to come out. 
'What do you know about it?' he asked. 'You were 
too young.' His speech was soft. The old voice, 
the old voice! It gave her a thrill. She recognized 
its pointless gentleness always the same no matter what 
he had to say. And she remembered that he never 
had much to say when he came down to see her. It 
was she who chattered, chattered, on their walks, while 
stiff and with a rigidly carried head, he dropped a gentle 
word now and then. 

"Moved by these recollections waking up within her, 
she explained to him that within the last year she had 
read and studied the report of the trial. 
) '"I went through the files of several papers, papa.' 

"He looked at her suspiciously. The reports were 
probably very incomplete. No doubt the reporters had 
garbled his evidence. They were determined to give 
him no chance either in court or before the public 
opinion. It was a conspiracy. . . . 'My counsel 
was a fool too,' he added. 'Did you notice? A perfect 

"She laid her hand on his arm soothingly. 'Is it 
worth while talking about that awful time? It is so 
far away now.' She shuddered slightly at the thought 
of all the horrible years which had passed over her young 
head; never guessing that for him the time was but 
yesterday. He folded his arms on his breast, leaned 
back in his corner and bowed his head. But in a little 
while he made her jump by asking suddenly: 

"'Who has got hold of the Lone Valley Railway? 
That's what they were after mainly. Somebody has 


got it. Parfitts and Co. grabbed it— eh? Or was it 
that fellow Warner. . . .' 

"I — I don't know,' she said, quite scared by the 
twitching of his lips. 

"Don't know!' he exclaimed softly. Hadn't her 
cousin told her? Oh, yes. She had left them — of 
course. Why did she? It was his first question about 
herself but she did not answer it. She did not want to 
talk of these horrors. They were impossible to de- 
scribe. She perceived though that he had not expected 
an answer, because she heard him muttering to himself 
that ' There was half a million's worth of work done and 
material accumulated there.' 

" ' You mustn't think of these things, papa,' she said 
firmly. And he asked her with that invariable gentle- 
ness, in which she seemed now to detect some rather 
ugly shades, what else had he to think about? Another 
year or two, if they had only left him alone, he and every- 
body else would have been all right, rolling in money; 
and she, his daughter, could have married anybody — 
anybody. A lord. 

"All this was to him like yesterday, a long yesterday, 
a yesterday gone over innumerable times, analyzed, 
meditated upon for years. It had a vividness and force 
for that old man of which his daughter who had not 
been shut out of the world could have no idea. She 
was to him the only living figure out of that past, and 
it was perhaps in perfect good faith that he added, 
coldly, inexpressive and thin-lipped: 'I lived only for 
you, I may say. I suppose you understand that. 
There were only you and me.' 

"Moved by this declaration, wondering that it did 
not warm her heart more, she murmured a few endear- 
ing words while the uppermost thought in her mind 
was that she must tell him now of the situation. She 


had expected to be questioned anxiously about herself 
— and while she desired it she shrank from the answers 
she would have to make. But her father seemed 
strangely, unnaturally incurious. It looked as if 
there would be no questions. Still this was an opening. 
This seemed to be the time for her to begin. And she 
began. She began by saying that she had ^always 
felt like that. There were two of them, to live for 
each other. And if he only knew what she had gone 
through ! 

"Ensconced in his corner, with his arms folded, he 
stared out of the cab window at the street. How little 
he was changed after all. It was the unmovable ex- 
pression, the faded stare she used to see on the Esplanade 
whenever walking by his side hand in hand she raised 
her eyes to his face — while she chattered, chattered. 
It was the same stiff, silent figure which at a word from 
her would turn rigidly into a shop and buy her anything 
it occurred to her that she would like to have. Flora 
de Barral's voice faltered. He bent on her that well- 
remembered glance in which she had never read 
anything as a child, except the consciousness of her exist- 
ence. And that was enough for a child who had never 
known demonstrative affection. But she had lived a 
life so starved of all feeling that this was no longer 
enough for her. What was the good of telling him the 
story of all these miseries now past and gone, of all 
those bewildering difficulties and humiliations? What 
she must tell him was difficult enough to say. She ap- 
proached it by remarking cheerfully — 

"'You haven't even asked me where I am taking 

"He started like a somnambulist awakened suddenly, 
and there was now some meaning in his stare; a sort of 
alarmed speculation. He opened his mouth slowly. 


Flora struck in with forced gaiety: 'You would never 

"He waited, still more startled and suspicious. 
' Guess ! Why don't you tell me? ' 

"He uncrossed his arms and leaned forward towards 
her. She got hold of one of his hands. 'You must 
know first . . .' She paused, made an effort: 'I 
am married, papa.' 

"For a moment they kept perfectly still in that cab 
rolling on at a steady jog-trot through a narrow city 
street full of bustle. Whatever she expected she did 
not expect to feel his hand snatched away from her 
grasp as if from a burn or a contamination. De Barral 
fresh from the stagnant torment of the prison (where 
nothing happens) had not expected that sort of news. 
It seemed to stick in his throat. In strangled low tones 
he cried out, 'You — married? You, Flora! When? 
Married! What for? Who to? Married!' 

"His eyes which were blue like hers, only faded, 
without depth, seemed to start out of their orbits. He 
did really look as if he were choking. He even put his 
hand to his collar . . . 

"You know," continued Marlow out of the shadow 
of the bookcase and nearly invisible in the depths of the 
arm-chair, "the only time I saw him he had given me 
the impression of absolute rigidity, as though he had 
swallowed a poker. But it seems that he could collapse. 
I can hardly picture this to myself. I understand that 
he did collapse to a certain extent in his corner of the 
cab. The unexpected had crumpled him up. She 
regarded him perplexed, pitying, a little disillusioned, 
and nodded at him gravely: Yes. Married. What 
she did not like was to see him smile in a manner far 
from encouraging to the devotion of a daughter. Th*»re 


was something unintentionally savage in it. Old de 
Barral could not quite command his muscles, as yet. 
But he had recovered command of his gentle voice. 

"'You were just saying that in this wide world there 
we were, only you and I, to stick to each other.' 

"She was dimly aware of the scathing intention lurk- 
ing in these soft low tones, in these words which ap- 
pealed to her poignantly. She defended herself. Never, 
never for a single moment had she ceased to think of 
him. Neither did he cease to think of her, he said, with 
as much sinister emphasis as he was capable of. 

"'But, papa,' she cried, 'I haven't been shut up like 
you.' She didn't mind speaking of it because he was 
innocent. He hadn't been understood. It was a mis- 
fortune of the most cruel kind but no more disgraceful 
than an illness, a maiming accident or some other visita- 
tion of blind fate. T wish I had been too. But I was 
alone out in the world, the horrid world, that very 
world which had used you so badly.' 
, "'And you couldn't go about in it without finding 
somebody to fall in love with?' he said. A jealous rage 
affected his brain like the fumes, of wine, rising from 
some secret depths of his being so long deprived of all 
emotions. The hollows at the corners of his lips be- 
came more pronounced in the puffy roundness of his 
cheeks. Images, visions, obsess with particular force 
men withdrawn from the sights and sounds of active 
life. 'And I did nothing but think of you!' he ex- 
claimed under his breath, contemptuously. 'Think 
of you ! You haunted me, I tell you.' 

"Flora said to herself that there was a being who 
loved her. 'Then we have been haunting each other,' 
she declared with a pang of remorse. For indeed he 
had haunted her nearly out of the world, into a final 
and irremediable desertion. .'Some day I shall tell 


you . . . No. I don't think I can ever tell you. 
There was a time when I was mad. But what's the 
good? It's all over now. We shall forget all this. 
There will be nothing to remind us.' 

"De Barral moved his shoulders. 

'"I think you were mad to tie yourself to . . . 
How long is it since you are married?' 

"She answered 'Not long,' that being the only an- 
swer she dared to make. Everything was so different 
from what she imagined it would be. He wanted to 
know why she had said nothing of it in any of her 
letters; in her last letter. She said: 

"Tt was after.' 

" ' So recently ! ' he wondered. ' Couldn't you wait at 
feast till I came out? You could have told me; asked 
me; consulted me! Let me see ' 

"She shook her head negatively. And he was ap- 
palled. He thought to Himself: Who can he be? Some 
miserable, silly youth without a penny. Or perhaps 
some scoundrel ? Without making any expressive move- 
ment he wrung his loosely clasped hands till the joints 
cracked. He looked at her. She was pretty. Some 
low scoundrel who will cast her off. Some plausible 
vagabond. . . . 'You couldn't wait — eh?' 

"Again she made a slight negative sign. 

" ' Why not? What was the hurry? ' She cast down 
her eyes. 'It had to be. Yes. It was sudden, but 
it had to be.' 

"He leaned towards her, his mouth open, his eyes 
wild with virtuous anger, but meeting the absolute 
candour of her raised glance threw himself back into 
his corner again. 

"'So tremendously in love with each other — was that 
it? Couldn't let a father have his daughter all to 
hitnsplf pvpti fnr a. dav after — after such a senara.t.inn. 


And you know I never had any one, I had no friends. 
"What did I want with those people one meets in the 
City? The best of them are ready to cut your throat. 
Yes I Business men, gentlemen, any sort of men and 
women— out of spite, or to get something. Oh, yes, 
they can talk fair enough if they think there's something 
to be got out of you. . . .' His voice was a mere 
breath yet every word came to Flora as distinctly as 
if charged with all the moving power of passion. . . . 
'My girl, I looked at them making up to me and I 
would say to myself: What do I care for all that! I 
am a business man. I am the great Mr. de Barral (yes, 
yes, some of them twisted their mouths at it, but I was 
the great Mr. de Barral) and I have my little girl. I 
wanted nobody and I have never had anybody.' 

"A true emotion had unsealed his lips but the words 
that came out of them were no louder than the murmur 
of a light wind. It died away. 

"'That's just it,' said Flora de Barral under her 
breath. Without removing his eyes from her he took 
off his hat. It was a tall hat. The hat of the trial. 
The hat of the thumb-nail sketches in the illustrated 
papers. One comes out in the same clothes, but seclu- 
sion counts ! It is well known that lurid visions haunt 
secluded men, monks, hermits — then why not prisoners? 
De Barral the convict took off the silk hat of the finan- 
cier de Barral and deposited it on the front seat of the 
cab. Then he blew out his cheeks. He was red in the 

"And then what happens?' he began again in his 
contained voice. 'Here I am, overthrown, broken by 
envy, malice and all uncharitableness. I come out — 
and what do I find? I find that my girl Flora has gone 
and married some man or other, perhaps a fool, how do 
I know; or perhaps — anyway not good enough.' 


"'Stop, papa.' 

"'A silly love affair as likely as not,' he continued 
monotonously, his thin lips writhing between the ill- 
omened sunk corners. 'And a very suspicious thing it 
is too, on the part of a loving daughter.' 

She tried to interrupt him but he went on till she 
actually clapped her hand on his mouth. He rolled 
his eyes a bit, but when she took her hand away he 
remained silent. 

"'Wait. I must tell you. ... And first of all, 
papa, understand this, for everything's in that: he is 
the most generous man in the world. He is . . .' 

"De Barral very still in his corner uttered with an 
effort : 

" ' You are in love with him.' 

'"Papa! He came to me. I was thinking of you. I 
had no eyes for anybody. I could no longer bear to 
think of you. It was then that he came. Only then. 
At that time when — when I was going to give up.' 

"She gazed into his faded blue eyes as if yearning to 
be understood, to be given encouragement, peace — a 
word of sympathy. He declared without animation : 

"T would like to break his neck.' 

"She had the mental exclamation of the overbur- 
dened, 'Oh, my God!' and watched him with frightened 
eyes. But he did not appear insane or in any other 
way formidable. This comforted her. The silence 
lasted for some little time. Then suddenly he asked: 

'"What's your name then?' 

"For a moment in the profound trouble of the task 
before her she did not understand what the question 
meant. Then, her face faintly flushing, she whispered: 
4 Anthony.' 

"Her father, a red spot on each cheek, leaned hig 
head back wearily in the corner of the cab 

364 , CHANCE 

"'Anthony. What is he? Where did he spring 

"'Papa, it was in the country, on a road ' 

"He groaned, 'On a road,' and closed his eyes. 

" ' It's too long to explain to you now. We shall have 
lots of time. There are things I could not tell you now. 
But some day. Some day. For now nothing can part 
us. Nothing. We are safe as long as we live — nothing 
can ever come between us.' 

'"You are infatuated with the fellow,' he remarked, 
without opening his eyes. And she said: 'I believe 
in him,' in a low voice. 'You and I must believe in 

"'Who the devil is he?' 

" 'He's the brother of the lady — you know Mrs. Fyne, 
she knew mother — who was so kind to me. I was stay- 
ing in the country, in a cottage, with Mr. and Mrs. 
Fyne. It was there that we met. He came on a visit. 
He noticed me. I — well — we are married now.' 

"She was thankful that his eyes were shut. It 
made it easier to talk of the future she had arranged, 
which now was an unalterable thing. She did not enter 
on the path of confidences. That was impossible. She 
felt he would not understand her. She felt also that 
he suffered. Now and then a great anxiety gripped her 
heart with a mysterious sense of guilt — as though she 
had betrayed him into the hands of an enemy. With 
his eyes shut he had an air of weary and pious medita- r 
tion. She was a little afraid of it. Next moment a 
great pity for him filled her heart. And in the back- 
ground there was remorse. His face twitched now and 
then just perceptibly. He managed to keep his eyelids 
down till he heard that the 'husband' was a sailor and 
that he, the father, was being taken straight on board 
ship ready to sail away from this abominable world 


p — 

of treacheries, and scorns and envies and lies, away, 
away over the blue sea, the sure, the inaccessible, the 
uncontaminated and spacious refuge for wounded souls. 

"Something like that. Not the very words perhaps 
but such was the general sense of her overwhelming 
argument — the argument of refuge. 

"I don't think she gave a thought to material con- 
ditions. But as part of that argument set forth breath- 
lessly, as if she were afraid that if she stopped for a 
moment she could never go on again, she mentioned 
that generosity of a stormy type, which had come to 
her from the sea, had caught her up on the brink of 
unmentionable failure, had whirled her away in its 
first ardent gust and could be trusted now, implicitly 
trusted, to carry them both, side by side, into absolute 

"She believed it, she affirmed it. He understood 
thoroughly at last, and at once the interior of that cab, 
of an aspect so pacific in the eyes of the people on the 
pavements, became the scene of a great agitation. The 
generosity of Roderick Anthony — the son of the poet — 
affected the ex-financier de Barral in a manner which 
must have brought home to Flora de Barral the ex- 
treme arduousness of the business of being a woman. 
Being a woman is a terribly difficult trade since it con- 
sists principally of dealings with men. This man — 
the man inside the cab — cast off his stiff placidity and 
behaved like an animal. I don't mean it in an offensive 
sense. What he did was to give way to an instinctive 
panic. Like some wild creature scared by the first 
touch of a net falling on its back, old de Barral began to 
struggle, lank and angular, against the empty air — as 
much of it as there was in the cab— with staring eyes 
and gasping mouth from which his daughter shrank 
as far as she could in the confined space. 


'"Stop the cab. Stop him, I tell you. Let me get 
out ! ' were the strangled exclamations she heard. Why? 
What for? To do what? He would hear nothing. 
She cried to him 'Papa! Papa! What do you want 
to do?' And all she got from him was: 'Stop. I must 
get out. I want to think. I must get out to think.' 

"It was a mercy that he didn't attempt to open the 
door at once. He only stuck his head and shoulders 
out of the window, crying to the cabman. She saw the 
consequences, the cab stopping, a crowd collecting 
around a raving old gentleman. ... In this terrible 
business of being a woman so full of fine shades, of 
delicate perplexities (and very small rewards) you can 
never know "what rough work you may have to do, at 
any moment. Without hesitation Flora seized her 
father round the body and pulled back — being aston- 
ished at the ease with which she managed to make 
him drop into his seat again. She kept him there reso- 
lutely with one hand pressed against his breast, and 
leaning across him, she, in her turn, put her head and 
shoulders out of the window. By then the cab had 
drawn up to the curbstone and was stopped. 'No! 
I've changed my mind. Go on please where you were 
told first. To the docks.' 

"She wondered at the steadiness of her own voice. 
She heard a grunt from the driver and the cab began to 
roll again. Only then she sank into her place keeping 
a watchful eye on her companion. He was hardly 
anything more by this time. Except for her child- 
hood's impressions he was just — a man. Almost a 
stranger. How was one to deal with him? And there 
was the other too. Also almost a stranger. The 
trade of being a woman was very difficult. Too dif- 
ficult. Flora closed her eyes saying to herself: *If I 
think too much about it I shall go mad.' And then 


opening them she asked her father if the prospect of 

living always with his daughter and being taken care 

of by her affection away from the world, which had no 

honour to give to his grey hairs, was such an awful 


, "'Tell me, is it so bad as that?' 

"She put that question sadly, without bitterness. 
The famous — or notorious — de Barral had lost his 
rigidity now. He was bent. Nothing more deplorably 
futile than a bent poker. He said nothing. She added 
gently, suppressing an uneasy remorseful sigh: 

"'And it might have been worse. You might have 
found no one, no one in all this town, no one in all the 
world, not even me! Poor papa!' 

"She made a conscience-stricken movement towards 
him thinking: 'Oh! I am horrible, I am horrible.' And 
old de Barral, scared, tired, bewildered by the ex- 
traordinary shocks of his liberation, swayed over and 
actually leaned his head on her shoulder, as if sorrowing 
over his regained freedom. 

"The movement by itself was touching. Flora, sup- 
porting him lightly, imagined that he was crying; and at 
the thought that had she smashed in a quarry that 
shoulder together with some other of her bones, this 
grey and pitiful head would have had nowhere to rest, 
she too gave way to tears. They flowed quietly, easing 
her overstrained nerves. Suddenly he pushed her away 
from him so that her head struck the side of the cab, 
pushing himself away too from her as if something 
had stung him. 

"All the warmth went out of her emotion. The very 
last tears turned cold on her cheek. But their work was 
done. She had found courage, resolution, as women 
do, in a good cry. With his hand covering the upper 
part of his face, whether to conceal his eyes or to shut out 


an unbearable sight, he was stiffening up in his corner 
to his usual poker-like consistency. She regarded him 
in silence. His thin obstinate lips moved. He uttered" 
the name of the cousin — the man, you remember, who 
did not approve of the Fynes, and whom rightly or 
wrongly little Fyne suspected of interested motives, 
in view of de Barral having possibly put away some 
plunder, somewhere before the smash. 

" I may just as well tell you at once that I don't know 
anything more of him. But de Barral was of the opin- 
ion, speaking in his low voice from under his hand, that 
this relation would have been only too glad to have 
secured his guidance. 

'"Of course I could not come forward in my own 
name or person. But the advice of a man of my ex- 
perience is as good as a fortune to anybody wishing to 
venture into finance. The same sort of thing can be 
done again.' 

"He shuffled his feet a little, let fall his hand; and 
turning carefully towards his daughter his puffy round 
cheeks, his round chin resting on his collar, he bent on 
her the faded, resentful gaze of his pale eyes, which were 

'"The start is really only a matter of judicious ad- 
vertising. There's no difficulty. And here you go 
and . . .' 

"He turned his face away. 'After all I am still de 
Barral, the de Barral. Didn't you remember that?' 

"'Papa,' said Flora; 'listen. It's you who must re- 
member that there is no longer a de Barral . . .' He 
looked at her sideways anxiously. 'There is Mr. 
Smith, whom no harm, no trouble, no wicked lies of 
evil people can ever touch.' 

"'Mr. Smith,' he breathed out slowly. 'Where does 
he belong to? . There's not even a Miss Smith.' 


"'There is your Flora.' 

"'My Flora! You went and ... I can't bear to 
think of it. It's horrible.' 

"'Yes. It was horrible enough at times,' she said 
with feeling, because somehow, obscurely, what this 
man said appealed to her as if it were her own thought 
clothed in an enigmatic emotion. 'I think with shame 
sometimes how I . . . No not yet. I shall not tell 
you. At least not now.' 

"The cab turned into the gateway of the dock. Flora 
handed the tall hat to her father. 'Here, papa. And 
please be good. I suppose you love me. If you don't, 
then I wonder who ' 

"He put the hat on, and stiffened hard in his corner, 
kept a sidelong glance on his girl. 'Try to be nice for 
my sake. Think of the years I have been waiting for 
you. I do indeed want support — and peace. A 
little peace.' 

"She clasped his arm suddenly with both hands press- 
ing with all her might as if to crush the resistance she 
felt in him. 'I could not have peace if I did not have 
you with me. I won't let you go. Not after all I went 
through. I won't.' The nervous force of her grip 
frightened him a little. She laughed suddenly. 'It's 
absurd. It's as if I were asking you for a sacrifice. 
What am I afraid of? Where could you go? I mean 
now, to-day, to-night? You can't tell me. Have you 
thought of it? Well, I have been thinking of it for the 
last year. Longer. I nearly went mad trying to find 
out. I believe I was mad for a time or else I should 
never have thought . . . ' > 

"This was as near as she came to a confession," re- 
marked Marlow in a changed tone. "The confession I 
mean of that walk to the top of the quarry which she 


reproached herself with so bitterly. And he made of i\ 
what his fancy suggested. It could not possibly have 
been a just notion. The cab stopped alongside the ship 
and they got out in the manner described by the sensitive 
Franklin. I don't know if they suspected each other's 
sanity at the end of that drive. But that is possible. 
We all seem a little mad to each other; an excellent ar- 
rangement for the bulk of humanity which finds in it an 
easy motive of forgiveness. Flora crossed the quarter- 
deck with a rapidity born of apprehension. It had 
grown unbearable. She wanted this business over. 
She was thankful on looking back to see he was following 
her. ' If he bolts away,' she thought, ' then I shall know 
that I am of no account indeed ! That no one loves me, 
that words and actions and protestations and everything 
in the world is false — and I shall jump into the dock. 
That at least won't lie.' 

"Well, I don't know. If it had come to that she 
would have been most likely fished out, what with her 
natural want of luck and the good many people on the 
quay and on board. And just where the Ferndale was 
moored there hung on a wall (I know the berth) a coil 
of line, a pole, and a life-buoy kept there on purpose 
to save people who tumble into the dock. It's not so 
easy to get away from life's betrayals as she thought. 
However it did not come to that. He followed her with 
his quick gliding walk. Mr. Smith! The liberated 
convict de Barral passed off the solid earth for the last 
time, vanished for ever, and there was Mr. Smith added 
to that world of waters which harbours so many queer 
fishes. An old gentleman in a silk hat, darting wary 
glances. He followed, because mere existence has its 
claims which are obeyed mechanically. I have no 
doubt he presented a respectable figure. Father-in- 
law. Nothing more respectable. But he carried in his 


heart the confused pain of dismay and affection, of 
involuntary repulsion and pity. Very much like his 
daughter. Only in addition he felt a furious jealousy 
of the man he was going to see. 

"A residue of egoism remains in every affection — 
even paternal. And this man in the seclusion of his 
prison had thought himself into such a sense of owner- 
ship of that single human being he had to think about, 
as may well be inconceivable to us who have not had 
to serve a long (and wickedly unjust) sentence of penal 
servitude. She was positively the only thing, the one 
point where his thought found a resting-place, for years. 
She was the only outlet for his imagination. He had 
not much of that faculty to be sure, but there was in it 
the force of concentration. He felt outraged, and per- 
haps it was an absurdity on his part, but I venture to 
suggest rather in degree than in kind. I have a notion 
that no usual, normal father is pleased at parting with 
his daughter. No. Not even when he rationally ap- 
preciates 'Jane being taken off his hands' or perhaps 
is able to exult at an excellent match. At bottom, quite 
deep down, down in the dark (in some cases only by 
digging), there is to be found a certain repugnance. 
. . . With mothers of course it is different. Women 
are more loyal, not to each other, but to their common 
femininity which they behold triumphant with a secret 
and proud satisfaction. 

"The circumstances of that match added to Mr. 
Smith's indignation. And if he followed his daughter 
into that ship's cabin it was as if into a house of dis- 
grace and only because he was still bewildered by the 
suddenness of the thing. His will, so long lying fallow," 
was overborne by her determination and by a vague fear 
of that regained liberty. 
, "You will be glad to hear that Anthony, though he 


did shirk the welcome on the quay, behaved admirably, 
with the simplicity of a man who has no small mean- 
nesses and makes no mean reservations. His eyes did 
not flinch and his tongue did not falter. He was, I 
have it on the best authority, admirable in his earnest- 
ness, in his sincerity and also in his restraint. He 
was perfect. Nevertheless the vital force of his un- 
known individuality addressing him so familiarly was 
enough to fluster Mr. Smith. Flora saw her father 
trembling in all his exiguous length, though he held 
himself stiffer than ever if that was possible. He mut- 
tered a little and at last managed to utter, not loud of 
course but very distinctly: 'I am here under protest,' 
the corners of his mouth sunk disparagingly, his eyes 
stony. 'I am here under protest. I have been locked 
up by a conspiracy. I ' 

"He raised his hands to his forehead — his silk hat was 
on the table rim upwards; he had put it there with a 
despairing gesture as he came in — he raised his hands 

to his forehead. 'It seems to me unfair. I ' He 

broke off again. Anthony looked at Flora who stood 
by the side of her father. — 'Well, sir, you will soon get 
used to me. Surely you and she must have had enough 
of shore-people and their confounded half-and-half 
ways to last you both for a life-time. A particularly 
merciful lot they are too. You ask Flora. I am allud- 
ing to my own sister, her best friend, and not a bad 
woman either as they go.' 

"The captain of the Ferndale checked himself. 
'Lucky thing I was there to step in. I want you to 
make yourself at home, and before long ' 

"The faded stare of the Great de Barral silenced 
Anthony by its inexpressive fixity. He signalled with 
his eyes to Flora towards the door of the state-room 
fitted specially to receive Mr. Smith, the free man. 


She seized the free man's hat off the table and took him 
caressingly under the arm. 'Yes! This is home, come 
and see your room, papa!' 

"Anthony himself threw open the door and Flora 
took care to shut it carefully behind herself and her 
father. 'See,' she began but desisted because it was 
clear that he would look at none of the contrivances for 
his comfort. She herself had hardly seen them before. 
He was looking only at the new carpet and she waited 
till he should raise his eyes. 

"He didn't do that but spoke in his usual voice. 
'So this is your husband, that. . . And I locked 

"'Papa, what's the good of harping on that?' she 
remonstrated no louder. 'He is kind.' 

"'And you went and . . . married him so that he 
should be kind to me. Is that it? How did you know 
that I wanted anybody to be kind to me? ' 

"'How strange you are!' she said thoughtfully. 

"'It's hard for a man who has gone through what I 
have gone through to feel like other people. Has that 
occurred to you? . . .' He looked up at last. . . . 
'Mrs. Anthony, 1 can't bear the sight of the fellow.' 
She met his eyes without flinching and he added, 'You 
want to go to him now.' His mild automatic manner 
seemed the effect of tremendous self-restraint — and 
yet she remembered him always like that. She felt cold 
all over. 

"'Why, of course, I must go to him,' she said with a 
slight start. 

"He gnashed his teeth at her and she went out. 

"Anthony had not moved from the spot. One of 
his hands was resting on the table. She went up to him, 
atopped, then deliberately moved still closer. 'Thank 
you, Roderick-' 


'"You needn't thank me/ he murmured. 'It's I 
who . . .' 

'"No, perhaps I needn't. You do what you like. 
But you are doing it well.' 

" He sighed then hardly above a whisper because they 
were near the state-room door, 'Upset, eh?' 

"She made no sign, no sound of any kind. The 
thorough falseness of the position weighed on them both. 
But he was the braver of the two. 'I dare say. At 
first. Did you think of telling him you were happy?' 

'"He never asked me,' she smiled faintly at him. 
She was disappointed by his quietness. 'I did not say 
more than I was absolutely obliged to say — of myself.' 
She was beginning to be irritated with this man a little. 
'I told him I had been very lucky,' she said suddenly 
despondent, missing Anthony's masterful manner, that 
something arbitrary and tender which, after the first 
scare, she had accustomed herself to look forward to 
with pleasurable apprehension. He was contemplating 
her rather blankly. She had not taken off her outdoor 
things, hat, gloves. She was like a caller. And she 
had a movement suggesting the end of a not very satis- 
factory business call. 'Perhaps it would be just as 
well if we went ashore. Time yet.' 

"He gave her a glimpse of his unconstrained self in 
the low vehement 'You dare!' which sprang to his lips 
and out of them with a most menacing inflection. 

"'You dare . . . What's the matter now?' 

"These last words were shot out not at her but at 
some target behind her back. Looking over her shoul- 
der she saw the bald head with black bunches of hair 
of the congested and devoted Franklin (he had his cap 
in his hand) gazing sentimentally from the saloon door- 
Way with his lobster eyes. He was heard from the 
distance in a tone of injured innocence reporting that 


the berthing master was alongside and that he wanted 
to move the ship into the basin before the crew came 
on board. 

"His captain growled 'Well, let him,' and waved away 
the ulcerated and pathetic soul behind these prominent 
eyes which lingered on the offensive woman while the 
mate backed out slowly. Anthony turned to Flora. 

"You could not have meant it. You are as straight 
as they make them.' 

"'I am trying to be.' 

" ' Then don't joke in that way. Think of what would 
become of — me.' 

"'Oh, yes. I forgot. No, I didn't mean it. It 
wasn't a joke. It was forgetfulness. You wouldn't 
have been wronged. I couldn't have gone. I — I 
am too tired.' 

"He saw she was swaying where she stood and re- 
strained himself violently from taking her into his arms, 
his frame trembling with fear as though he had been 
tempted to an act of unparalleled treachery. He step- 
ped aside and lowering his eyes pointed to the door of the 
stern-cabin. It was only after she passed by him that 
he looked up and thus he did not see the angry glance 
she gave him before she moved on. He looked after 
her. She tottered slightly just before reaching the 
door and flung it to behind her nervously. 

"Anthony — he had felt this crash as if the door had 
been slammed inside his very breast — stood for a mo- 
ment without moving and then shouted for Mrs. 
Brown. This was the steward's wife, his lucky inspira- 
tion to make Flora comfortable. 'Mrs. Brown! Mrs. 
Brown!' At last she appeared from somewhere- 
'Mrs. Anthony has come on board. Just gone into the 
cabin. Hadn't you better see if you can be of any 


"'Yes, sir.' 

"And again he was alone with the situation he had 
created in the hardihood and inexperience of his heart. 
He thought he had better go on deck. In fact he ought 
to have been there before. At any rate it would be the 
usual thing for him to be on deck. But a sound of 
muttering and of faint thuds somewhere near by ar- 
rested his attention. They proceeded from Mr. Smith's 
room, he perceived. It was very extraordinary. 'He's 
talking to himself,' he thought. ' He seems to be thump- 
ing the bulkhead with his fists — or his head.' 

"Anthony's eyes grew big with wonder while he lis- 
tened to these noises. He became so attentive that 
he did not notice Mrs. Brown till she actually stopped 
before him for a moment to say — 

"'Mrs. Anthony doesn't want any assistance, sir.' 

"This was, you understand, the voyage before Mr. 
Powell — young Powell then — joined the Ferndale; 
chance having arranged that he should get his start 
in life in that particular ship of all the ships then in 
the port of London. The most unrestful ship that 
ever sailed out of any port on earth. I am not alluding 
to her sea-going qualities. Mr. Powell tells me she was 
as steady as a church. I mean unrestful in the sense, 
for instance, which this planet of ours is unrestful — a 
matter of an uneasy atmosphere disturbed by passions, 
jealousies, loves, hates and the troubles of transcen- 
dental good intentions, which, though ethically valuable, 
I have no doubt cause often more unhappiness than the 
plots of the most evil tendency. For those who refuse 
to believe in chance he, I mean Mr. Powell, must have 
been obviously predestined to add his native ingenu- 
ousness to the sum of all the others carried by the 
honest ship Ferndale. He was too ingenuous. Every- 


body on board was, exception being made of Mr. 
Smith who, however, was simple enough in his way, 
with that terrible simplicity of the fixed idea, for which 
there is also another name men pronounce with dread 
and aversion. His fixed idea was to save his girl from 
the man who had possessed himself of her (I use these 
words on purpose because the image they suggest was 
clearly in Mr. Smith's mind), possessed himself un- 
fairly of her while he, the father, was locked up. 

"I won't rest till I have got you away from that 
man,' he would murmur to her after long periods of 
contemplation. We know from Powell how he used 
to sit on the skylight near the long deck-chair on which 
Flora was reclining, gazing into her face from above with 
an air of guardianship and investigation at the same time. 
"It is almost impossible to say if he ever had con- 
sidered the event rationally. The avatar of de Barral 
into Mr. Smith had not been effected without a shock — ■ 
that much one must recognize. It may be that it drove 
all practical considerations out of his mind, making 
room for awful and precise visions which nothing could 
dislodge afterwards. And it might have been the te- 
nacity, the unintelligent tenacity, of the man who had 
persisted in throwing millions of other people's thrift 
into the Lone Valley Railway, the Labrador Docks, 
the Spotted Leopard Copper Mine, and other grotesque 
speculations exposed during the famous de Barral trial, 
amongst murmurs of astonishment mingled with bursts 
of laughter. For it is in the Courts of Law that Comedy 
finds its last refuge in our deadly serious world. As to 
tears and lamentations these were not heard in the 
august precincts of Comedy, because they were in- 
dulged in privately in several thousand homes, where, 
with a fine dramatic effect, Hunger had taken the place 
of Thrift. 


"But there was one at least who did not laugh in 
court. That person was the accused. The notorious 
de Barral did not laugh because he was indignant. He 
was impervious to words, to facts, to inferences. It 
would have been impossible to make him see his guilt 
or his folly — either by evidence or argument — if any- 
body had tried to argue. 

"Neither did his daughter Flora try to argue with 
him. The cruelty of her position was so great, its com- 
plications bo thorny, if I may express myself so, that a 
passive attitude was yet her best refuge — as it had been 
before her of so many women. 

"For that sort of inertia in woman is always enig- 
matic and therefore menacing. It makes one pause. A 
woman may be a fool, a sleepy fool, an agitated fool, 
a too awfully noxious fool, and she may even be simply 
stupid. But she is never dense. She's never made of 
wood through and through as some men are. There 
is in woman always, somewhere, a spring. Whatever 
men don't know about women (and it may be a lot or it 
may be very little) men and even fathers do know that 
much. And that is why so many men are afraid of 

"Mr. Smith, I believe, was afraid of his daughter's 
quietness though of course he interpreted it in his own 

"He would, as Mr. Powell depicts, sit on the skylight 
and bend over the reclining girl, wondering what there 
was behind the lost gaze under the darkened eyelids in 
the still eyes. He would look and look and then he 
would say, whisper rather, it didn't take much for his 
voice to drop to a mere breath — he would declare, 
transferring his faded stare to the horizon, that he 
would never rest till he had 'got her away from that 


"'You don't know what you are saying, papa.' 

"She would try not to show her weariness, the ner- 
vous strain of these two men's antagonism around her 
person which was the cause of her languid attitudes. 
For as a matter of fact the sea agreed with her. 

"As likely as not Anthony would be walking on the 
other side of the deck. The strain was making him 
restless. He couldn't sit still anywhere. He had tried 
shutting himself up in his cabin; but that was no good. 
He would jump up to rush on deck and tramp, tramp up 
and down that poop till he felt ready to drop, without 
being able to wear down the agitation of his soul, gene- 
rous indeed, but weighted by its envelope of blood and 
muscle and bone; handicapped by the brain creating 
precise images and everlastingly speculating, speculat- 
ing — looking out for signs, watching for symptoms. 

"And Mr. Smith with a slight backward jerk of his 
small head at the footsteps on the other side of the sky- 
light would insist in his awful, hopelessly gentle voice 
that he knew very well what he was saying. Hadn't 
she given herself to that man while he was locked up? 

" ' Helpless, in jail, with no one to think of, nothing 
to look forward to, but my daughter. And then when 
they let me out at last I find her gone — for it amounts 
to this. Sold. Because you've sold yourself; you know 
you have.' 

"With his round unmoved face, a lot of fine white 
hair waving in the wind-eddies of the spanker, his 
glance levelled over the sea, he seemed to be addressing 
the universe across her reclining form. She would pro- 
test sometimes. 

"'I wish you would not talk like this, papa. You 
are only tormenting me, and tormenting yourself.' 

'"Yes, I am tormented enough,' he admitted mean- 
ingly. But it was not talking about it that tormented 


him. It was thinking of it. And to sit and look at it 
was worse for him than it possibly could have been for 
her to go and give herself up, bad as that must have 

'"For of course you suffered. Don't tell me you 
didn't. You must have.' 

"She had renounced very soon all attempts at pro- 
tests. It was useless. It might have made things 
worse; and she did not want to quarrel with her father, 
the only human being that really cared for her, abso- 
lutely, evidently, completely — to the end. There was 
in him no pity, no generosity, nothing whatever of 
these fine things — it was for her, for her very own self, 
such as it was, that this human being cared. This 
certitude would have made her put up with worse 
torments. For, of course, she too was being tormented. 
She felt also helpless, as if the whole enterprise had 
been too much for her. This is the sort of conviction 
which makes for quietude. She was becoming a fatalist. 

"What must have been rather appalling were the 
necessities of daily life, the intercourse of current trifles. 
That naturally had to go on. They wished good morn- 
ing to each other, they sat down together to meals — 
and I believe there would be a game of cards now and 
then in the evening, especially at first. What fright- 
ened her most was the duplicity of her father, at least 
what looked like duplicity, when she remembered his 
persistent, insistent whispers on deck. However her 
father _was a taciturn person as far back as she could 
remember him best — on the Parades. It was she who 
chattered, never troubling herself to discover whether 
he was pleased or displeased. And now she couldn't 
fathom his thoughts. Neither did she chatter to him 
Anthony with a forced friendly smile as if frozen to his 
lips seemed only too thankful at not being made to 


speak. Mr. Smith sometimes forgot himself while 
studying his hand so long that Flora had to recall him 
to himself by a murmured 'Papa — your lead.' Then 
he apologized by a faint as if inward ejaculation, 'Beg* 
your pardon, Captain.' Naturally she addressed An- 
thony as Roderick and he addressed her as Flora. This 
was all the acting that was necessary to judge from the 
wincing twitch of the old man's mouth at every ut- 
tered 'Flora.' On hearing the rare 'Rodericks' he had 
sometimes a scornful grimace as faint and faded and 
colourless as his whole stiff personality. 

"He would be the first to retire. He was not infirm. 
With him too the life on board ship seemed to agree; but 
from a sense of duty, of affection, or to placate his hid- 
den fury, his daughter always accompanied him to his 
state-room 'to make him comfortable.' She lighted 
his lamp, helped him into his dressing-gown or got him a 
book from a bookcase fitted in there — but this last 
rarely, because Mr. Smith used to declare 'I am no 
reader ' with something like pride in his low tones. Very 
often after kissing her good-night on the forehead he 
would treat her to some such fretful remark: 'It's like 
being in jail— 'pon my word. I suppose that man is 
out there waiting for you. Head jailer! Ough!' 

"She would smile vaguely; murmur a conciliatory 
'How absurd.' But once, out of patience, she said 
quite sharply 'Leave off. It hurts me. One would 
think you hate me.' 

"'It isn't you I hate,' he went on monotonously 
breathing at her. 'No, it isn't you. But if I saw that 
you loved that man I think I could hate you too.' 

"That word struck straight at her heart. 'You 
wouldn't be the first then,' she muttered bitterly. But 
he was busy with his fixed idea and uttered an awfully 
equable 'But you don't! Unfortunate girl!' 


"She looked at him steadily for a time then said: 

'"Good-night, papa.' 

"As a matter of fact Anthony very seldom waited 
for her alone at the table with the scattered cards, 
glasses, water- jug, bottles and so on. He took no more 
opportunities to be alone with her than was absolutely 
necessary for the edification of Mrs. Brown. Excellent, 
faithful woman; the wife of his still more excellent and 
faithful steward. And Flora wished all these excellent 
people, devoted to Anthony, she wished them all further; 
and especially the nice, pleasant-spoken Mrs. Brown 
with her beady, mobile eyes and her 'Yes, certainly, 
ma'am,' which seemed to her to have a mocking sound. 
And so this short trip — to the Western Islands only — 
came to an end. It was so short that when young 
Powell joined the Ferndale by a memorable stroke of 
chance, no more than seven months had elapsed since 
the — let us say the liberation of the convict de Barral 
and his avatar into Mr. Smith. 

"For the time the ship was loading in London An- 
thony took a cottage near a little country station in 
Essex, to house Mr. Smith and Mr. Smith's daughter. 
It was altogether his idea. How far it was necessary 
for Mr. Smith to seek rural retreat I don't know. Per- 
haps to some extent it was a judicious arrangement. 
There were some obligations incumbent on the liber- 
ated de Barral (in connection with reporting himself to 
the police I imagine) which Mr. Smith was not anxious 
to perform. De Barral had to vanish; the theory was 
that de Barral had vanished, and it had to be upheld. 
Poor Flora liked the country, even if the spot had noth- 
ing more to recommend it than its retired character. 

"Now and then Captain Anthony ran down; but 
as the station was a real wayside one, with no early 


morning trains up, he could never stay for more than 
the afternoon. It appeared that he must sleep in 
town so as to be early on board his ship. The weather 
was magnificent and whenever the captain of the 
Ferndale was seen on a brilliant afternoon coming down 
the road Mr. Smith would seize his stick and toddle 
off for a solitary walk. But whether he would get 
tired or because it gave him some satisfaction to see 
'that man' go away — or for some cunning reason of his 
own, he was always back before the hour of Anthony's 
departure. On approaching the cottage he would see 
generally 'that man' lying on the grass in the orchard 
at some distance from his daughter seated in a chair 
brought out of the cottage's living-room. Invariably 
Mr. Smith made straight for them and as invariably 
had the feeling that his approach was not disturbing a 
very intimate conversation. He sat with them, through 
a silent hour or so, and then it would be time for An- 
thony to go. Mr. Smith, perhaps from discretion, 
would casually vanish a minute or so before, and then 
watch through the diamond panes of an upstairs room 
'that man' take a lingering look outside the gate at 
the invisible Flora, lift his hat, like a caller, and go off 
down the road. Then only Mr. Smith would join his 
daughter again. 

"These were the bad moments for her. Not always, 
of course, but frequently. It was nothing extraordi- 
nary to hear Mr. Smith begin gently with some obser~ 
vation like this: 

"'That man is getting tired of you.' 

"He would never pronounce Anthony's name. It 
was always 'that man.' 

"Generally she would remain mute with wide-open 
eyes gazing at nothing between the gnarled fruit trees. 
Once, however, she got up and walked into the cottage. 


Mr. Smith followed her carrying the chair. He banged 
it down resolutely and in that smooth inexpressive tone 
so many ears used to bend eagerly to catch when it 
came from the Great de Barral he said : 

"'Let's get away.' 

"She had the strength of mind not to spin round. 
On the contrary she went on to a shabby bit of a mirror 
on the wall. In the greenish glass her own face looked 
far off like the livid face of a drowned corpse at the 
bottom of a pool. She laughed faintly. 

"'I tell you that man's getting ' 

"'Papa,' she interrupted him. 'I have no illusions 
as to myself. It has happened to me before, but ' 

"Her voice failing her suddenly her father struck in 
with quite an unwonted animation. 'Let's make a 
rush for it then.' 

" Having mastered both her fright and her bitterness, 
she turned round, sat down and allowed her astonish- 
ment to be seen. Mr. Smith sat down too, his knees 
together and bent at right angles, his thin legs parallel 
to each other and his hands resting on the arms of the 
wooden arm-chair. His hair had grown long, his head 
was set stiffly, there was something fatuously venerable 
in his aspect. 

You can't care for him. Don't tell me. I under- 
stand your motive. And I have called you an unfortu- 
nate girl. You are that as much as if you had gone on 
the streets. Yes. Don't interrupt me, Flora. I was 
everlastingly being interrupted at the trial and I can't 
stand it any more. I won't be interrupted by my own 
child. And when I think that it is on the very day 
before they let me out that you . . . ' 

"He had wormed this fact out of her by that time 
because Flora had got tired of evading the question. 
He had been very much struck and distressed. Was 



that the trust she had in him? Was that a proof of 
confidence and love? The very day before! Never 
given him even half a chance. It was as at the trial. 
They never gave him a chance. They would not give 
him time. And there was his own daughter acting ex- 
actly as his bitterest enemies had done. Not giving 
him time ! 

"The monotony of that subdued voice nearly lulled 
her dismay to sleep. She listened to the unavoidable 
things he was saying. 

'"But what induced that man to marry you? Of 
course he's a gentleman. One can see that. And that 
makes it worse. Gentlemen don't understand anything 
about city affairs — finance. Why! — the people who 
started the cry after me were a firm of gentlemen. 
The counsel, the judge — all gentlemen — quite out of it ! 
No notion of . . . And then he's a sailor too. Just 
a skipper ' 

'"My grandfather was nothing else,' she interrupted. 
And he made an angular gesture of impatience. 

" ' Yes. But what does a silly sailor know of business? 
Nothing. No conception. He can have no idea of 
what it means to be the daughter of Mr. de Barral — 
even after his enemies had smashed him. What on 
earth induced him ■' 

"She made a movement because the level voice was 
getting on her nerves. And he paused, but only to go 
on again in the same tone with the remark: 

"'Of course you are pretty. And that's why you 
are lost — like many other poor girls. Unfortunate is 
the word for you.' 

" She said : ' It may be. Perhaps it is the right word ; 
but listen, papa. I mean to be honest.' 

"He began to exhale more speeches. 

"'Just the sort of man to get tired and then leave you 


and go off with his beastly ship. And anyway you can 
never be happy with him. Look at his face. I want 
to save you. You see I was not perhaps a very good 
husband to your poor mother. She would have done 
better to have left me long before she died. I have been 
thinking it all over. I won't have you unhappy.' 

"He ran his eyes over her with an attention which was 
surprisingly noticeable. Then said, 'H'm! Yes. Let's 
clear out before it is too late. Quietly, you and I.' 

" She said as if inspired and with that calmness which 
despair often gives : ' There is no money to go away with, 

"He rose up straightening himself as though he were 
a hinged figure. She said decisively: 

"'And of course you wouldn't think of deserting me, 

" ' Of course not,' sounded his subdued tone. And he 
left her, gliding, away with his walk which Mr. Powell 
described to me as being as level and wary as his voice. 
He walked as if he were carrying a glass full of water on 
his head. 

"Flora naturally said nothing to Anthony of that 
edifying conversation. His generosity might have 
taken alarm at it and she did not want to be left behind 
to manage her father alone. And moreover she was too 
honest. She would be honest at whatever cost. She 
would not be the first to speak. Never. And the 
thought came into her head: 'I am indeed an unfortu- 
nate creature!' 

"It was by the merest coincidence that Anthony com- 
ing for the afternoon two days later had a talk with Mr. 
Smith in the orchard. Flora for some reason or other 
had left them for a moment; and Anthony took that 
opportunity to be frank with Mr. Smith. He said: 
'It seems to me, sir, that you think Flora has not done 


very well for herself. Well, as to that I can't say any- 
thing. All I want you to know is that I have tried to 
do the right thing.' And then he explained that he had 
willed everything he was possessed of to her. 'She 
didn't tell you, I suppose?' 

"Mr. Smith shook his head slightly. And Anthony, 
trying to be friendly, was just saying that he proposed 
to keep the ship away from home for at least two years: 
'I think, sir, that from every point of view it would be 
best,' when Flora came back and the conversation, cut 
short in that direction, languished and died. Later in 
the evening, after Anthony had been gone for hours, on 
the point of separating for the night, Mr. Smith re- 
marked suddenly to his daughter after a long period of 

"'A will is nothing. One tears it up. One makes 
another.' Then after reflecting for a minute he added 
unemotionally : 

"'One tells lies about it.' 

"Flora, patient, steeled against every hurt and every 
disgust to the point of wondering at herself, said : ' You 
push your dislike of — of — Roderick too far, papa. You 
have no regard for me. You hurt me.' 

"He, as ever inexpressive to the point of terrifying 
her sometimes by the contrast of his placidity and 
his words, turned away from her a pair of faded 

" 'I wonder how.far your dislike goes,' he began. 'His 
very name sticks in your throat. I've noticed it. It 
hurts me. What do you think of that? You might 
remember that you are not the only person that's hurt 
by your folly, by your hastiness, by your recklessness.' 
He brought back his eyes to her face. 'And the verv 
day before they were going to let me out.' His feeble 
voice failed him altogether, the narrow compressed lips 


only trembling for a time before he added with that 
extraordinary equanimity of tone, 'I call it sinful.' 

"Flora made no answer. She judged it simpler, 
kinder and certainly safer to let him talk himself out. 
This, Mr. Smith, being naturally taciturn, never took 
very long to do. And we must not imagine that this 
sort of thing went on all the time. She had a few good 
days in that cottage. The absence of Anthony was a 
relief and his visits were pleasurable. She was quieter. 
He was quieter too. She was almost sorry when the 
time to join the ship arrived. It was a moment of 
anguish, of excitement; they arrived at the dock in the 
evening and Flora after 'making her father comforta- 
ble ' according to established usage lingered in the state- 
room long enough to notice that he was surprised. She 
caught his pale eyes observing her quite stonily. Then 
she went out after a cheery good-night. 

" Contrary to her hopes she found Anthony yet in the 
saloon. Sitting in his arm-chair at the head of the 
table he was picking up some business papers which he 
put hastily in his breast pocket and got up. He asked 
her if her day, travelling up to town and then doing some 
shopping, had tired her. She shook her head. Then 
he wanted to know in a half-jocular way how she felt 
about going away, and for a long voyage this time. 

'"Does it matter how I feel?' she asked in a tone 
that cast a gloom over his face. He answered with re- 
pressed violence which she did not expect: 

"'No, it does not matter, because T cannot go with- 
out you. I've told you. . . . You know it. You 
don't think I could.' 

" ' I assure you I haven't the slightest wish to evade 
my obligations,' she said steadily. 'Even if I could. 
Even if I dared, even if I had to die for it! ' 

"He looked thunderstruck. They stood facing each 


other at the end of the saloon. Anthony stuttered. ' Oh, 
no. You won't die. You don't mean it. You have 
taken kindly to the sea.' 

"She laughed, but she felt angry. 

'"No, I don't mean it. I tell you I don't mean to 
evade my obligations. I shall live on . . . feeling 
a little crushed, nevertheless.' 

Crushed ! ' he repeated. ' What's crushing you? ' 

"'Your magnanimity,' she said sharply. But her 
voice was softened after a time. 'Yet I don't know. 
There is a perfection in it — do you understand 
me, Roderick? — which makes it almost possible to 

"He sighed, looked away, and remarked that it was 
time to put out the lamp in the saloon. The permission 
was only till ten o'clock. 

"'But you needn't mind that so much in your 
cabin. Just see that the curtains of the ports are 
drawn close and that's all. The steward might have 
forgotten to do it. He lighted your reading-lamp in 
there before he went ashore for a last evening with 
his wife. I don't know if it was wise to get rid of 
Mrs. Brown. You will have to look after yourself, 

"He was quite anxious; but Flora as a matter of fact 
congratulated herself on the absence of Mrs. Brown. 
No sooner had she closed the door of her state-room 
than she murmured fervently, 'Yes! Thank goodness, 
she is gone." There would be no gentle knock, followed 
by her appearance with her equivocal stare and the in- 
tolerable: 'Can I do anything for you, ma'am?' which 
poor Flora had learned to fear and hate more than any 
voice or any words on board that ship — her only refuge 
from the world which had no use for her, for her im- 
perfections and for her troubles. 


"Mrs. Brown had been very mtich vexed at her dis- 
missal. The Browns were a childless couple and the 
arrangement had suited them perfectly. Their resent- 
ment was very bitter. Mrs. Brown had to remain 
ashore alone with her rage, but the steward was nursing 
his on board. Poor Flora had no greater enemy, the 
aggrieved mate had no greater sympathizer. And Mrs. 
Brown, with a woman's quick power of observation and 
inference (the putting of two and two together), had 
come to a certain conclusion which she had imparted 
to her husband before leaving the ship. The morose 
steward permitted himself once to make an allusion 
to it in Powell's hearing. It was in the officers' mess- 
room at the end of a meal while he lingered after putting 
a fruit pie on the table. He and the chief mate started 
a dialogue about the alarming change in the captain, 
the sallow steward looking down with a sinister frown, 
Franklin rolling upwards his eyes, sentimental in a 
red face. Young Powell had heard a lot of that sort 
of thing by that time. It was growing monotonous; 
it had always sounded to him a little absurd. He 
struck in impatiently with the remark that such lamen- 
tations over a man merely because he had taken a wife 
seemed to him like lunacy. 

"Franklin muttered, 'Depends on what the wife is up 
to.' The steward leaning against the bulkhead near 
the door glowered at Powell, that new-comer, that igno- 
ramus, that stranger without right or privileges. He 
snarled — 

" ' Wife ! Call her a wife, do you? ' 

"What the devil do you mean by this?' exclaimed 
young Powell. 

"'I know what I know. My old woman has not 
been six months on board for nothing. You had better 
3sk her when we get back.' 


"And meeting sullenly the withering stare of Mr. 
Powell the steward retreated backwards. 

"Our young friend turned at once upon the mate. 
'And you let that confounded bottle-washer talk like 
this before you, Mr. Franklin. Well, I am astonished.' 

"'Oh, it isn't what you think? It isn't what you 
think.' Mr. Franklin looked more apoplectic than ever. 
'If it comes to that I could astonish you. But it's 
no use. I myself can hardly . . . You couldn't 
understand. I hope you won't try to make mischief. 
There was a time, young fellow, when I would have 
dared any man — any man, you hear? — to make mis- 
chief between me and Captain Anthony. But not now. 
Not now. There's a change ! Notin me though . . .' 

" Young Powell rejected with indignation any sugges- 
tion of making mischief. 'Who do you take me for?' 
he cried. ' Only you had better tell that steward to be 
careful what he says before me or I'll spoil his good looks 
for him for a month and will leave him to explain the 
why of it to the captain the best way he can.' 

"This speech established Powell as a champion of 
Mrs. Anthony. Nothing more bearing on the question 
was ever said before him. He did not care for the 
steward's black looks; Franklin, never conversational 
even at the best of times and avoiding now the only 
topic near his heart, addressed him only on matters of 
duty. And for that, too, Powell cared very little. 
The woes of the apoplectic mate had begun to bore him 
long before. Yet he felt lonely a bit at times. There- 
fore the little intercourse with Mrs. Anthony either in 
one dog-watch or the other was something to be looked 
forward to. The captain did not mind it. That was 
evident from his manner. One night he inquired 
(they were then alone on the poop) what they had been 
talking about that evening? Powell had tp confess 


that it was about the ship. Mrs. Anthony had been 
asking him questions. 

"'Takes interest — eh?' jerked out the captain, mov- 
ing rapidly up and down the weather side of the poop. 

" ' Yes, sir. Mrs. Anthony seems to get hold wonder- 
fully of what one's telling her.' 

"'Sailor's granddaughter. One of the old school. Old 
sea-dog of the best kind, I believe,' ejaculated the 
captain, swinging past his motionless second officer 
and leaving the words behind him like a trail of sparks 
succeeded by a perfect conversational darkness, be- 
cause, for the next two hours till he left the deck, he 
didn't open his lips again. 

"On another occasion ... we mustn't forget that 
the ship had crossed the line and was adding up south 
latitude every day by then ... on another occasion, 
about seven in the evening, Powell on duty, heard his 
name uttered softly in the companion. The cap%in 
was on the stairs, thin-faced, his eyes sunk, on his arm 
a Shetland wool wrap. 

'"Mr. Powell— here.' 

"'Yes, sir.' 

"'Give this to Mrs. Anthony. Evenings are getting 
chilly.' , 

"And the haggard face sank out of sight. Mrs. 
Anthony was surprised on seeing the shawl. 

"'The captain wants you to put this on,' explained 
young Powell, and as she raised herself in her seat he 
dropped it on her shoulders. She wrapped herself up 

'"Where was the captain?' she asked. 

"He was in the companion. Called me on purpose,' 
said Powell, and then retreated discreetly, because she 
looked as though she didn't want to talk any more 
ihat evening. Mr. Smith — the old gentleman — was as 


usual sitting on the skylight near her head, brooding 
over the long chair but by no means inimical, as far 
as his unreadable face went, to those conversations 
of the two youngest people on board. In fact they 
seemed to give him some pleasure. Now and then he 
would raise his faded china eyes to the animated face 
of Mr. Powell thoughtfully. When the young sailor 
was by, the old man became less rigid, and when his 
daughter, on rare occasions, smiled at some artless tale 
■of Mr. Powell, the inexpressive face of Mr. Smith re- 
flected dimly that flash of evanescent mirth. For Mr. 
P«well had come now to entertain his captain's wife 
with anecdotes from the not very distant past when he 
was a boy, on board various ships — funny things do 
happen on board ship. Flora was quite surprised at 
times to find herself amused. She was even heard to 
laugh twice in the course of a month. It was not a 
loud sound but it was startling enough at the after- 
end of the Ferndale where low tones or silence was the 
rule. The second time this happened the captain 
himself must have been startled somewhere down be- 
low; because he emerged from the depths of his un- 
obtrusive existence and began his tramping on the 
opposite side of the poop. 

"Almost immediately he called his young second 
officer over to him. This was not done in displeasure. 
The glance he fastened on Mr. Powell conveyed a sort 
of approving wonder. He engaged him in desultory 
conversation as if for the only purpose of keeping a man 
who could provoke such a sound near his person. Mr. 
Powell felt himself liked. He felt it. Liked by that 
haggard, restless man who threw at him disconnected 
phrases to which his answers were, 'Yes, sir,' 'No, 
sir,' 'Oh, certainly,' T suppose so, sir,' — and might 
have been clearly anything else for all the other cared. 


"It was then, Mr. Powell told me, that he discovered 
ha himself an already old-established liking for Captain 
Anthony. He also felt sorry for him without being 
able to discover the origins of that sympathy of which 
he had become so suddenly aware. 

"Meantime Mr. Smith, bending forward stiffly as 
though he had a hinged back, was speaking to his 

"She was a child no longer. He wanted to know if 
she believed in — in hell. In eternal punishment? 

" His peculiar voice, as if filtered through cotton-wool, 
was inaudible on the other side of the deck. Poor Flora, 
taken very much unawares, made an inarticulate mur- 
mur, shook her head vaguely, and glanced in the direc- 
tion of the pacing Anthony who was not lookingherway. 
It was no use glancing in that direction. Of young 
Powell, leaning against the mizzen-mast and facing hft 
captain, she could only see the shoulder and part of a 
blue serge back. 

"And the un worried, unaccented voice of her father 
went on tormenting her. 

"'You see, you must understand. When I came out 
of jail it was with joy. That is, my soul was fairly 
torn in two — but anyway to see you happy — I had made 
up my mind to that. Once I could be sure that you 
were happy then of course I would have had no reason 
to care for life — strictly speaking — which is all right for 
an old man; though naturally ... no reason to 
wish for death either. But this sort of life! What 
sense, what meaning, what value has it either for you 
or for me? It's just sitting down to look at the death 
that's coming, coming. What else is it? I don't 
know how you can put up with that. I don't think 
you can stand it for long. Some day you will jump 


" Captain Anthony had stopped for a moment staring 
ahead from the break of the poop, and poor Flora sent 
at his back a look of despairing appeal which would 
have moved a heart of stone. But as though she had 
done nothing he did not stir in the least. She got out 
of the long chair and went towards the companion. 
Her father followed carrying a few small objects, a hand- 
bag, her handkerchief, a book. They went down to- 

"It was only then that Captain Anthony turned, 
looked at the place they had vacated and resumed his 
tramping, but not his desultory conversation with his 
second officer. His nervous exasperation had grown so 
much that now very often he used to lose control of his 
voice. If he did not watch himself it would suddenly 
die in his throat. He had to make sure before he ven- 
tured on the simplest saying, an order, a remark on the 
wind, a simple good morning. That's why his utter- 
ance was abrupt, his answers to people startlingly 
brusque and often not forthcoming at all. 

"It happens to the most resolute of men to find him- 
self at grips not only with unknown forces, but with a 
well-known force the real might of which he had not 
understood. Anthony had discovered that he was not 
the proud master but the chafing captive of his generos- 
ity. It rose in front of him like a wall which his respect 
for himself forbade him to scale. He said to himself: 
' Yes, I was a fool — but she has trusted me ! ' Trusted ! 
A terrible word to any man somewhat exceptional in a 
world in which success has never been found in renunci- 
ation and good faith. And it must also be said, in 
order not to make Anthony more stupidly sublime than 
he was, that the behaviour of Flora kept him at a dis- 
tance. The girl was afraid to add to the exasperation 
of her father. It was her unhappy lot to be made more 


wretched by the only affection which she could not 
suspect. She could not be angry with it, however, and 
out of deference for that exaggerated sentiment she 
hardly dared to look otherwise than by stealth at the 
man whose masterful compassion had carried her off. 
And quite unable to understand the extent of Anthony's 
delicacy, she said to herself that 'he didn't care.' He 
probably was beginning at bottom to detest her — like 
the governess, like the maiden lady, like the German 
woman, like Mrs. Fyne, like Mr. Fyne — only he was 
extraordinary, he was generous. At the same time she 
had moments of irritation. He was violent, head- 
strong — perhaps stupid. Well, he had had his way. 

"A man who has had his way is seldom happy, for 
generally he finds that the way does not lead very far 
on this earth of desires which can never be fully satisfied. 
Anthony had entered with extreme precipitation the 
enchanted gardens of Armida saying to himself 'At 
last!' As to Armida herself, he was not going to offer 
her any violence. But now he had discovered that all 
the enchantment was in Armida herself, in Armida's 
smiles. This Armida did not smile. She existed, un- 
approachable, behind the blank wall of his renunciation. 
His force, fit for action, experienced the impatience, the 
indignation, almost the despair of his vitality arrested, 
bound, stilled, progressively worn down, frittered away 
by Time; by that force blind and insensible, which 
seems inert and yet uses one's life up by its imper- 
ceptible action, dropping minute after minute on one's 
living heart like drops of water wearing down a stone. 

"He upbraided himself. What else could he have 
expected? He had rushed in like a ruffian; he had 
dragged the poor defenceless thing by the hair of her 
head, as it were, on board that ship. It was really 
atrocious. Nothing assured him that his person could 


be attractive to this or any other woman. And his 
proceedings were enough in themselves to make any 
one odious. He must have been bereft of his senses. 
She must fatally detest and fear him. Nothing could 
make up for such brutality. And yet somehow he re- 
sented this very attitude which seemed to him com- 
pletely justifiable. Surely he was not too monstrous 
(morally) to be looked at frankly sometimes. But 
no! She wouldn't. Well, perhaps, some day . . . 
Only he was not going over to attempt to beg for for- 
giveness. With the repulsion she felt for his person she 
would certainly misunderstand the most guarded words, 
the most careful advances. Never! Never! 

"It would occur to Anthony at the end of such medi- 
tations that death was not an unfriendly visitor after 
all. No wonder then that even young Powell, his 
faculties having been put on the alert, began to think 
that there was something unusual about the man who 
had given him his chance in life. Yes, decidedly, his 
captain was 'strange.' There was something wrong 
somewhere, he said to himself, never guessing that his 
young and candid eyes were in the presence of a passion 
profound, tyrannical and mortal, discovering its own 
existence, astounded at feeling itself helpless and dis- 
mayed at finding itself incurable. 

"Powell had never before felt this mysterious uneasi- 
ness so strongly as on that evening when it had been 
his good fortune to make Mrs. Anthony laugh a little 
by his artless prattle. Standing out of the way, he 
had watched his captain walk the weather-side of the 
poop, he took full cognizance of his liking for that in- 
explicably strange man and saw him swerve towards 
the companion and go down below with sympathetic 
if utterly uncomprehending eyes. 

"Shortly afterwards, Mr. Smith came up alone and 


manifested a desire for a little conversation. He, too, 
if not so mysterious as the captain, was not very com- 
prehensible to Mr. Powell's uninformed candour. He 
often favoured thus the second officer. His talk alluded 
somewhat enigmatically and often without visible con- 
nection to Mr. Powell's friendliness towards himseU 
and his daughter. 'For I am well aware that we .have 
no friends on board this ship, my dear young man,' 
he would add, 'except yourself. Flora feels that too.' 

"And Mr. Powell, flattered and embarrassed, could 
but emit a vague murmur of protest. For the state- 
ment was true in a sense, though the fact was in itself 
insignificant. The feelings of the ship's company 
could not possibly matter to the captain's wife and to 
Mr. Smith — her father. Why the latter should so 
often allude to it was what surprised our Mr. Powell. 
This was by no means the first occasion. More like 
the twentieth rather. And in his weak voice, with 
his monotonous intonation, leaning over the rail and 
looking at the water the other continued this conversa- 
tion, or rather his remarks, remarks of such a monstrous 
nature that Mr. Powell had no option but to accept 
them for gruesome jesting. 

"'For instance,' said Mr. Smith, 'that mate, Frank- 
lin, I believe he would just as soon see us both over- 
board as not.' 

" 'It's not so bad as that,' laughed Mr. Powell, feeling 
uncomfortable, because his mind did not accommodate 
itself easily to exaggeration of statement. 'He isn't 
a bad chap really,' he added, very conscious of Mr. 
Franklin's offensive manner of which instances were 
not far to seek. 'He's such a fool as to be jealous. 
He has been with the captain for years. It's not for 
me to say, perhaps, but I think the captain has spoiled 
all that gang of old servants. They are like a lot oi 


pet old dogs. Wouldn't let anybody come near him 
if they could help it. I've never seen anything like it. 
And the second mate, I believe, was like that too.' 

"'Well, he isn't here, luckily. There would have 
been one more enemy,' said Mr. Smith. 'There's 
enough of them without him. And you being here in- 
stead of him makes it much more pleasant for my 
daughter and myself. One feels there may be a friend 
in need. For really, for a woman all alone on board 
ship amongst a lot of unfriendly men . . .' 

'"But Mrs. Anthony is not alone,' exclaimed Powell. 
'There's you, and there's the . . .' 

"Mr. Smith interrupted him. 

" 'Nobody's immortal. And there are times when one 
feels ashamed to live. Such an evening as this for 

"It was a lovely evening; the colours of a splendid 
sunset had died out and the breath of a warm breeze 
seemed to have smoothed out the sea. Away to the 
south the sheet lightning was like the flashing of an 
enormous lantern hidden under the horizon. In order 
to change the conversation Mr. Powell said — 

'"Anyway no one can charge you with being a Jonah, 
Mr. Smith. We have had a magnificent quick passage 
so far. The captain ought to be pleased. And I sup- 
pose you are not sorry either.' 

"This diversion was not successful. Mr. Smith 
emitted a sort of bitter chuckle and said: 'Jonah! 
That's the fellow that was thrown overboard by some 
sailors. It seems to me it's very easy at sea to get rid 
of a person one does not like. The sea does not give 
up its dead as the earth does.' 

"'You forget the whale, sir,' said young Powell. 

"Mr. Smith gave a start. 'Eh? What whale? 
. Oh ! Jonah. I wasn't thinking of Jonah. I. was thinking 


of this passage which seems so quick to you. But onli 
think what it is to me ! It isn't a life, going about thi 
sea like this. And, for instance, if one were to fal 
ill, there isn't a doctor to find out what's the matte 
with one. It's worrying. It makes me anxious a 

"'Is Mrs. Anthony not feeling well?' asked Powell 
But Mr. Smith's remark was not meant for Mrs 
Anthony. She was well. He himself was well. Il 
was the captain's health that did not seem quite satis 
factory. Had Mr. Powell noticed his appearance? 

"Mr. Powell didn't know enough of the captain tc 
judge. He couldn't tell. But he observed thought- 
fully that Mr. Franklin had been saying the same thing, 
And Franklin had known the captain for years. The 
mate was quite worried about it. 

"This intelligence startled Mr. Smith considerably. 
'Does he think he is in danger of dying?' he exclaimed 
with an animation quite extraordinary for him, which 
horrified Mr. Powell. 

'"Heavens! Die! No! Don't you alarm yourself, 
sir. 'I've never heard a word about danger from Mr, 

"'Well, well,' sighed Mr. Smith and left the poop foi 
the saloon rather abruptly. 

"As a matter of fact Mr. Franklin had been on decl 
for some considerable time. He had come to relieve 
young Powell; but seeing him engaged in talk with the 
'enemy' — with one of the 'enemies' at least — had 
kept at a distance, which, the poop of the Ferndale being 
over seventy feet long, he had no difficulty in doing 
Mr. Powell saw him at the head of the ladder leaning 
on his elbow, melancholy and silent. 'Oh! Here 
you are, sir.' 

"'Here I am, Here I've been ever since six o'clock. 


Didn't want to interrupt the pleasant conversation. 
If you like to put in half of your watch below jawing 
with a dear friend, that's not my affair. Funny taste 

"He isn't a bad chap,' said the impartial Powell. 

"The mate snorted angrily, tapping the deck with 
his foot; then : 'Isn't he? Well, give him my love when 
you come together again for another nice long yarn.' 

""I say, Mr. Franklin, I wonder the captain don't 
take offence at your manners. ' 

'"The captain? I wish to goodness he would start a 
row with me. Then I should know at least I am some- 
body on board. I'd welcome it, Mr. Powell. I'd 
rejoice. And dam' me I would talk back too till I 
roused him. He's a shadow of himself. He walks 
about his ship like a ghost. He's fading away right 
before our eyes. But of course you don't see. You 
don't care a hang. Why should you?' 

"Mr. Powell did not wait for more. He went down 
on the main deck. Without taking the mate's jeremiads 
seriously he put them beside the words of Mr. Smith. 
He had grown already attached to Captain Anthony. 
There was something not only attractive but compelling 
in the man. Only it is very difficult for youth to be- 
lieve in the menace of death. Not in the fact itself, 
but in its proximity to a breathing, moving, talking, 
superior human being, showing no sign of disease. 
And Mr. Powell thought that this talk was all nonsense. 
But his curiosity was awakened. There was something, 
and at any time some circumstance might occur . . . 
No, he would never find out . . . There was nothing 
to find out, most likely. Mr. Powell went to his room 
where he tried to read a book he had already read a 
good many times. Presently a bell rang for the officers' 



In the mess-room Powell found Mr. Franklin hack 
ing at a piece of cold salt beef with a table knife. Th< 
mate, fiery in the face and rolling his eyes over tha' 
task, explained that the carver belonging to the mess 
room could not be found. The steward, present also 
complained savagely of the cook. The fellow goi 
things into his galley and then lost them. Mr. Franklii 
tried to pacify him with mournful firmness. 

"'There, there! That will do. We who have beei 
all these years together in the ship have other thing; 
to think about than quarrelling among ourselves.' 

"Mr. Powell thought with exasperation: 'Here h< 
goes again,' for this utterance had nothing crypti< 
for him. The steward having withdrawn morosely 
he was not surprised to hear the mate strike the usua 
note. That morning the mizzen topsail tie had carriec 
away (probably a defective link) and something liki 
forty feet of chain and wire-rope, mixed up with a fe\> 
heavy iron blocks, had crashed down from aloft on tin 
poop with a terrifying racket. 

" 'Did you notice the captain then, Mr. Powell? Di( 
you notice?' 

"Powell confessed frankly that he was too scarei 
himself when all that lot of gear came down on dec] 
to notice anything. 

'"The gin-lock missed his head by an inch,' went oi 



the mate impressively. 'I wasn't three feet from him. 
And what did he do? Did he shout, or jump, or even 
look aloft to see if the yard wasn't coming down too 
about our ears in a dozen pieces? It's a marvel it 
didn't. No, he just stopped short — no wonder; he 
must have felt the wind of that iron gin-lock on his 
face — looked down at it, there, lying close to his foot — 
and went on again. I believe he didn't even blink. 
It isn't natural. The man is stupefied.' 

"He sighed ridiculously and Mr. Powell had sup- 
pressed a grin, when the mate added as if he couldn't 
contain himself: — 

He will be taking to drink next. Mark my words. 
That's the next thing.' 

"Mr. Powell was disgusted. 

"'You are so fond of the captain and yet you don't 
seem to care what you say about him. I haven't been 
with him for seven years, but I know he isn't the sort 
of man that takes to drink. And then — why the devil 
should he?' 

"'Why the devil, you ask. Devil — eh? Well, no 
man is safe from the devil — and that's answer enough 
for you,' wheezed Mr. Franklin not unkindly. 'There 
was a time, a long time ago, when I nearly took to 
drink myself. What do you say to that? ' 

"Mr. Powell expressed a polite incredulity. The 
thick, congested mate seemed on the point of bursting 
with despondency. 'That was bad example though. 
I was young and fell into dangerous company, made a 
fool of myself — yes, as true as you see me sitting here. 
Drank to forget. Thought it a great dodge. ' 

"Powell looked at the grotesque Franklin with awak- 
ened interest and with that half-amused sympathy 
with which we receive unprovoked confidences from 
men with whom we have no sort of affinity. And at 


the same time he began to look upon him more seriously. 
Experience has its prestige. And the mate con- 
tinued — 

"'If it hadn't been for the old lady, I would have 
gone to the devil. I remembered her in time. Nothing 
like having an old lady to look after to steady a chap 
and make him face things. But as bad luck would 
ha™ it, Captain Anthony has no mother living, not a 
blessed soul belonging to him as far as I know. Oh, 
aye, I fancy he said once something to me of a sister. 
But she's married. She don't need him. Yes. In 
the old days he used to talk to me as if we had been 
brothers,' exaggerated the mate sentimentally. ' "Fran- 
klin" — he would say — "this ship is my nearest relation 
and she isn't likely to turn against me. And I suppose 
you are the man I've known the longest in the world." 
That's how he used to speak to me. Can I turn my 
back on him? He has turned his back on his ship: 
that's what it has come to. He has no one now but his 
old Franklin. But what's a fellow to do to put things 
back as they were and should be? Should be — I say!' 

" His starting eyes had a terrible fixity. Mr. Powell's 
irresistible thought, 'he resembles a boiled lobster in 
distress,' was followed by annoyance. 'Good Lord,' 
he said, 'you don't mean to hint that Captain Anthony 
has fallen into bad company. What is it you want 
to save him from?' 

"'I do mean it,' affirmed the mate, and the very 
absurdity of the statement made it impressive — because 
it seemed so absolutely audacious. 'Well, you have 
a cheek,' said young Powell, feeling mentally helpless. 
'I have a notion the captain would half kill you if he 
were to know how you carry on.' 

"And welcome,' uttered the fervently devoted 
Franklin. 'I am willing, if he would only clear the 


ship afterwards of that . . . You are but a youngster 
and you may go and tell him what you like. Let him 
knock the stuffing out of his old Franklin first and think 
it over afterwards. Anything to pull him together. 
But of course you wouldn't. You are all right. Only 
you don't know that things are sometimes different 
from what they look. There are friendships that are 
no friendships, and marriages that are no marriages. 
. . . Phoo! Likely -to be right — wasn't it? Never 
a hint to me. I go off on leave and when I come back, 
there it is — all over, settled! Not a word beforehand. 
No warning. If only: "What do you think of it, 
Franklin?" — or anything of the sort. And that's a 
man who hardly ever did anything without asking my 
advice. Why ! He couldn't take over a new coat from 
the tailor without . . . first thing, directly the fellow 
came on board with some new clothes, whether in 
London or in China, it would be: "Pass the word along 
there for Mr. Franklin. Mr. Franklin wanted in the 
cabin." In I would go. "Just look at my back, 
Franklin. Fits all right, doesn't it?" And I would 
say: "First rate, sir," or whatever was the truth of it. 
That or anything else. Always the truth of it. 
Always. And well he knew it; and that's why he dare 
not speak right out. Talking about workmen, altera- 
tions, cabins. . . . Phoo ! . . . instead of a straight- 
forward — "Wish me joy, Mr. Franklin!" Yes, that 
was the way to let me know. God only knows what 
they are — perhaps she isn't his daughter any more than 
she is . . . She doesn't resemble that old fellow. 
Not a bit. Not a bit. It's very awful. You may well 
open your mouth, young man. But for goodness' sake, 
you who are mixed up with that lot, keep your eyes 
and ears open too in case — in case of ... I don't 
know what. Anything. One wonders what can hap- 


pen here at sea! Nothing. Yet when a man is called 
a jailer behind his back.' 

"Mr. Franklin hid his face in his hands for a moment 
and Powell shut his mouth, which indeed had been 
open. He slipped out of the mess-room noiselessly. 
'The mate's crazy,' he thought. It was his firm con- 
viction. Nevertheless, that evening, he felt his inner 
tranquillity disturbed at last by the force and obstinacy 
of this craze. He couldn't dismiss it with the contempt 
it deserved. Had the word 'jailer' really been pro- 
nounced? A strange word for the mate to even im- 
agine he had heard. A senseless, unlikely word. 
But this word being the only clear and definite state- 
ment in these grotesque and dismal ravings was com- 
paratively restful to his mind. Powell's mind rested on 
it still when he came up at eight o'clock to take charge 
of the deck. It was a moonless night, thick with stars 
above, very dark on the water. A steady air from the 
west kept the sails asleep. Franklin mustered both 
watches in low tones as if for a funeral, then approach- 
ing Powell — 

"'The course is east-south-east,' said the chief mate 

"'East-south-east, sir.' 

"'Everything's set, Mr. Powell.' 

"'All right, sir.' 

"The other lingered, his sentimental eyes gleamed 
silvery in the shadowy face. 'A quiet night before us. 
I don't know that there are any special orders. A 
settled, quiet night. I dare say you won't see the 
captain. Once upon a time this was the watch he 
used to come up and start a chat with either of us then 
on deck. But now he sits in that infernal stern-cabin 
and mopes. Jailer — eh?' 

"Mr. Powell walked away from the mate and when 


at some distance said, 'Damn!' quite heartily. It was 
a confounded nuisance. It had ceased to be funny; 
that hostile word 'jailer' had given the situation an 
air of reality. 

"Franklin's grotesque mortal envelope had disap- 
peared from the poop to seek its needful repose, if only 
the beworried soul would let it rest awhile. Mr. Powell, 
half sorry for the thick little man, wondered whether 
it would let him. For himself, he recognized that the 
charm of a quiet watch on deck when one may let "one's 
thoughts roam in space and time had been spoiled 
without remedy. What shocked him most was the 
implied aspersion of complicity on Mrs. Anthony. 
It angered him. In his own words to me, he felt very 
'enthusiastic' about Mrs. Anthony. 'Enthusiastic' 
is good; especially as he couldn't exactly explain to 
me what he meant by it. But he felt enthusiastic, he 
says. That silly Franklin must have been dreaming. 
That was it. He had dreamed it all. Ass. Yet the 
injurious word stuck in Powell's mind with its associ- 
ated ideas of prisoner, of escape. He became very un- 
comfortable. And just then (it might have been half 
an hour or more since he had relieved Franklin), just 
then Mr. Smith came up on the poop alone, like a 
gliding shadow, and leaned over the rail by his side. 
Young Powell was affected disagreeably by his pres- 
ence. He made a movement to go away but the other 
began to talk — and Powell remained where he was as 
if retained by a mysterious compulsion. The conversa- 
tion started by Mr. Smith had nothing peculiar. He 
began to talk of mail-boats in general and in the end 
seemed anxious to discover what were the services from 
Port Elizabeth to London. Mr. Powell did not know 
for certain but imagined that there must be communica- 


tion with England at least twice a month. 'Are you 
thinking of leaving us, sir; of going home by steam? 
Perhaps with Mrs. Anthony,' he asked anxiously. 

"'No! No! How can I?' Mr. Smith got quite 
agitated, for him, which did not amount to much. He 
was just asking for the sake of something to talk about. 
No idea at all of going home. One could not always 
do what one wanted and that's why there were mo- 
ments when one felt ashamed to live. This did not 
mean that one did not want to live. Oh, no ! 

" He spoke with careless slowness, pausing frequently 
and in such a low voice that Powell had to strain his 
hearing to catch the phrases dropped overboard as it 
were. And indeed they seemed not worth the effort. 
It was like the aimless talk of a man pursuing a secret 
train of thought far removed from the idle words we 
so often utter only to keep in touch with our fellow 
beings. An hour passed. It seemed as though Mr. 
Smith could not make up his mind to go below. He 
repeated himself. Again he spoke of lives which one 
was ashamed of. It was necessary to put up with such 
lives as long as there was no way out, no possible issue. 
He even alluded once more to mail-boat services on 
the East coast of Africa and young Powell had to tell 
him once more that he knew nothing about them. 

"'Every fortnight, I thought you said,' insisted Mr. 
Smith. He stirred, seemed to detach himself from the 
rail with difficulty. His long, slender figure straight- 
ened into stiffness, as if hostile to the enveloping soft 
peace of air and sea and sky, emitted into the night a 
weak murmur which Mr. Powell fancied was the word 
'Abominable' repeated three times, but which passed 
into the faintly louder declaration: 'The moment has 
come — to go to bed,' followed by a just audible sigh. 

" 'I sleep very well,' added Mr. Smith in his restrained 


tone. 'But it is the moment one opens one's eyes that 
is horrible at sea. These days! Oh, these days! I 
wonder how anybody can . . .' 

'"I like the life,' observed Mr. Powell. 

"Oh, you. You have only yourself to think of. 
You have made your bed. Well, it's very pleasant to 
feel that you are friendly to us. My daughter has taken 
quite a liking to you, Mr. Powell.' 

"He murmured, ' Good-night ' andglided away rigidly. 
Young Powell asked himself with some distaste what 
was the meaning of these utterances. His mind had 
been worried at last into that questioning attitude by 
no other person than the grotesque Franklin. Suspicion 
was not natural to him. And he took good care to 
carefully separate in his thoughts Mrs. Anthony from 
this man of enigmatic words — her father. Presently 
he observed that the sheen of the two deck dead-lights 
of Mr. Smith's room had gone out. The old gentleman 
had been surprisingly quick in getting into bed. Shortly 
afterwards the lamp in the foremost skylight of the 
saloon was turned out; and this was the sign that the 
steward had taken in the tray and had retired for the 

"Young Powell had settled down to the regular 
officer-of-the-watch tramp in the dense shadow of the 
world decorated with stars high above his head, and 
on earth only a few gleams of light about the ship. 
The lamp in the after skylight was kept burning through 
the night. There were also the dead-lights of the stern- 
cabins glimmering dully in the deck far aft, catching 
his eye when he turned to walk that way. The brasses 
of the wheel glittered too, with the dimly lit figure of 
the man detached, as if phosphorescent, against the 
black and spangled background of the horizon. 

"Young Powell^ in the silence of the ship, reinforced 


by the great silent stillness of the world, said to himself 
that there was something mysterious in such beings 
as the absurd Franklin, and even in such beings as 
himself. It was a strange and almost improper thought 
to occur to the officer of the watch of a ship on the high 
seas on no matter how quiet a night. Why on earth 
was he bothering his head? Why couldn't he dismiss 
all these people from his mind? It was as if the mate 
had infected him with his own diseased devotion. He 
would not have believed it possible ■ that he should 
be so foolish. But he was — clearly. He was foolish 
in a way totally unforeseen by himself. Pushing this 
self -analysis further, he reflected that the springs of his 
conduct were just as obscure. 

" 'I may be catching myself any time doing things of 
which I have no conception,' he thought. And as he was 
passing near the mizzen-mast he perceived a coil of rope 
left lying on the deck by the oversight of the sweepers. , 
By an impulse which had nothing mysterious in it, he 
stooped as he went by with the intention of picking it 
up and hanging it up on its proper pin. This movement 
brought his head down to the level of the glazed end 
of the after skylight — the lighted skylight of the most 
private part of the saloon, consecrated to the exclusive- 
ness of Captain Anthony's married life; the part, let 
me remind you, cut off from the rest of that forbidden 
space by a pair of heavy curtains. I mention these 
curtains because at this point Mr. Powell himself re- 
called the existence of that unusual arrangement to my 

"He recalled them with simple-minded compunction 
at that distance of time. He said: 'You understand 
that directly I stooped to pick up that coil of running 
gear — the spanker foot-outhaul, it was — I perceived 
that I could see right into that part of the saloon the 


curtains were meant to make particularly private. 
Do you understand me?' he insisted. 

"I told him that I understood; and he proceeded to 
call my attention to the wonderful linking up of small 
facts, with something of awe left yet, after all these 
years, at the precise workmanship of chance, fate, provi- 
dence, call it what you will! 'For, observe, Marlow,' 
he said, making at me very round eyes which contrasted 
funnily with the austere touch of grey on his temples, 
'observe, my dear fellow, that everything depended on 
the men who cleared up the poop in the evening leaving 
that coil of rope on the deck, and on the topsail-tie 
carrying away in a most incomprehensible and sur- 
prising manner earlier in the day, and the end of the 
chain whipping round the coaming and shivering to 
bits the coloured glass-pane at the end of the skylight. 
It had the arms of the city of Liverpool on it; I don't 
know why unless because the Ferndale was registered 
in Liverpool. It was very thick plate glass. Anyhow, 
the upper part got smashed, and directly we had at- 
tended to things aloft Mr. Franklin had set the car- 
penter to patch up the damage with some pieces of plain 
glass. I don't know where they got them; I think the 
people who fitted up new bookcases in the captain's 
room had left some spare panes. Chips was there the 
whole afternoon on his knees, messing with putty and 
red-lead. It wasn't a neat job when it was done, not 
by any means, but it would serve to keep the weather 
out and let the light in. Clear glass. And of course I 
was not thinking of it. I just stooped to pick up that 
rope and found my head within three inches of that 
clear glass and — dash it all ! I found myself out. Not 
half an hour before I was saying to myself that it was 
impossible to tell what was in people's heads or at the 
back of their talk, or what they were likely to be up to. 

VvXl£i.J.>l y^iu 

And here I found myself up to as low a trick as you can 
well think of. For, after I had stooped, there I re- 
mained prying, spying, anyway looking, where I had 
no business to look. Not consciously at first, maybe. 
He who has eyes, you know, nothing can stop him from 
seeing things as long as there are things to see in front 
of him. What I saw at first was the end of the table 
and the tray clamped on to it, a patent tray for sea use, 
fitted with holders for a couple of decanters, water- jug 
and glasses. The glitter of these things caught my 
eye first; but what I saw next was the captain down 
there, alone as far as I could see; and I could see pretty 
well the whole of that part up to the cottage piano, 
dark against the satin-wood panelling of the bulkhead. 
And I remained looking. I did. And I don't know 
that I was ashamed of myself either, then. It was the 
fault of that Franklin, always talking of the man, mak- 
ing free with him to that extent that really he seemed 
to have become our property, his and mine, in a way. 
It's funny, but one had that feeling about Captain 
Anthony. To watch him was not so much worse than 
listening to Franklin talking him over. Well, it's no 
use making excuses for what's inexcusable. I watched; 
but I dare say you know that there could have been 
nothing inimical in this low behaviour of mine. On 
the contrary. I'll tell you now what he was doing. 
He was helping himself out of a decanter. I saw every 
movement, and I said to myself mockingly as though 
jeering at Franklin in my thoughts, "Hallo! Here's 
the captain taking to drink at last." He poured a 
little brandy or whatever it was into a long glass, filled 
it with water, drank about a fourth of it and stood the 
glass back into the holder. Every sign of a bad drink- 
ing bout, I was saying to myself, feeling quite amused 
at the notions of that Franklin, He seemed to me an 


enormous ass, with his jealousy and his fears. At 
that rate a month would not have been enough for any- 
body to get drunk. The captain sat down in one of the 
swivel arm-chairs fixed around the table; I had him right 
under me and as he turned the chair slightly, I was look- 
ing, I may say, dcwn his back. He took another little 
sip and then reached for a book which was lying on 
the table. I had not noticed it before. Altogether 
the proceedings of a desperate drunkard — weren't 
they? He opened the book and held it before his face. 
If this was the way he took to drink, then I needn't 
worry. He was in no danger from that, and as to any 
other, I assure you no human being could have looked 
safer than he did down there. I felt the greatest con- 
tempt for Franklin just then, while I looked at Captain 
Anthony sitting there with a glass of weak brandy-and- 
water at his elbow and reading in the cabin of his ship, 
on a quiet night — the quietest, perhaps the finest, of a 
prosperous passage. And if you wonder why I didn't 
leave off my ugly spying I will tell you how it was. 
Captain Anthony was a great reader just about that 
time; and I, too, I have a great liking for books. To 
this day I can't come near a book but I must know what 
it is about. It was a thickish volume he had there, 
small close print, double columns — I can see it now. 
What I wanted to make out was the title at the top 
of the page. I have very good eyes but he wasn't 
holding it conveniently — I mean for me up there. 
Well, it was a history of some kind, that much I read, 
and then suddenly he bangs the book face down on the 
table, jumps up as if something had bitten him and 
walks away aft. 

" ' Funny thing shame is. I had been behaving badly 
and aware of it in a way, but I didn't feel really ashamed 
till the frieht of being found out in my honourable occu- 


pation drove me from it. I slunk away to the forward 
end of the poop and lounged about there, my face and 
ears burning, and glad it was a dark night, expecting 
every moment to hear the captain's footsteps behind 
me. For I made sure he was coming on deck. Pres- 
ently I thought I had rather meet him face to face and 
I walked slowly aft prepared to see him emerge from 
the companion before I got that far. I even thought 
of his having detected me by some means. But it was 
impossible, unless he had eyes in the top of his head. 
I had never had a view of his face down there. It was 
impossible; I was safe; and I felt very mean, yet, ex- 
plain it as you may, I seemed not to care. And the 
captain not appearing on deck, I had the impulse to go 
on being mean. I wanted another peep. I really 
don't know what was the beastly influence except that 
Mr. Franklin's talk was enough to demoralize any man 
by raising a sort of unhealthy curiosity which did away 
in my case with all the restraints of common decency. 

"'I did not mean to run the risk of being caught 
squatting in a suspicious attitude by the captain. 
There was also the helmsman to consider. So what I 
did — I am surprised at my low cunning — was to sit 
down naturally on the skylight-seat and then by bend- 
ing forward I found that, as I expected, I could look 
down through the upper part of the end-pane. The 
worst that could happen to me then, if I remained 
too long in that position, was to be suspected by the 
seaman aft at the wheel of having gone to sleep there. 
For the rest my ears would give me sufficient warning 
of any movements in the companion. 

"But in that way my angle of view was changed. 
The field too was smaller. The end of the table, the 
tray and the swivel-chair I had right under my eyes. 
The captain had not come back yet. The piano I 


could not see now; but on the other hand I had a very 
oblique downward view of the curtains drawn across 
the cabin and cutting off the forward part of it just 
about the level of the skylight-end and only an inch 
or so from the end of the table. They were heavy 
stuff, travelling on a thick brass rod with some contriv- 
ance to keep the rings from sliding to and fro when 
the ship rolled. But just then the ship was as still 
almost as a model shut up in a glass case while the 
curtains, joined closely, and, perhaps on purpose, made 
a little too long, moved no more than a solid wall.'" 

Marlow got up to get another cigar. The night was 
getting on to what I may call its deepest hour, the hour 
most favourable to evil purposes of men's hate, despair 
or greed — to whatever can whisper into their ears the 
unlawful counsels of protest against things that are; the 
hour of ill-omened silence and chill and stagnation, the 
hour when the criminal plies his trade and the victim 
of sleeplessness reaches the lowest depth of dreadful dis- 
couragement; the hour before the first sign of dawn. I 
know it, because while Marlow was crossing the room, 
I looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. He however 
never looked that way though it is possible that he, too, 
was aware of the passage of time. He sat down heavily. 

"Our friend Powell," he began again, "was very 
anxious that I should understand the topography of that 
cabin. I was interested more by its moral atmosphere, 
that tension of falsehood, of desperate acting, which 
tainted the pure sea-atmosphere into which the mag- 
nanimous Anthony had carried off his conquest and — well 
— his self-conquest too, trying to act at the same time 
like a beast of prey s a pure spirit and the 'most generous 
of men.' Too big an order clearly because he was 
nothing of a monster but just a common mortal, a little 


more self-willed and self-confident than most, maybe, 
both in his roughness and in his delicacy. 

"As to the delicacy of Mr. Powell's proceedings I'll 
say nothing. He found a sort of depraved excitement 
in watching an unconscious man — and such an attrac- 
tive and mysterious man as Captain Anthony at that. 
He wanted another peep at him. He surmised that 
the captain must come back soon because of the glass 
two-thirds full and also of the book put down so brus- 
quely. God knows what sudden pang had made An- 
thony jump up so. I am convinced he used reading as 
an opiate against the pain of his magnanimity which 
like all abnormal growths was gnawing at his healthy 
substance with cruel persistence. Perhaps he had 
rushed into his cabin simply to groan freely in absolute 
and delicate secrecy. At any rate he tarried there. 
And young Powell would have grown weary and com- 
punctious at last if it had not become manifest to him 
that he had not been alone in the highly incorrect occu- 
pation of watching the movements of Captain Anthony. 

"Powell explained to me that no sound did or per- 
haps could reach him from the saloon. The first sign — 
and we must remember that he was using his eyes 
for all they were worth — was an unaccountable move- 
ment of the curtain. It was wavy and very slight; just 
perceptible in fact to the sharpened faculties of a secret 
watcher; for it can't be denied that our wits are much 
more alert when engaged in wrong-doing (in which one 
mustn't be found out) than in a righteous occupation. 

"He became suspicious, with no one and nothing 
definite in his mind. He was suspicious of the curtain 
itself and observed it. It looked very innocent. Then 
just as he was ready to put it down to a trick of imagina- 
tion he saw trembling movements where the two curtains 
joined. Yes! Somebody else besides himself had 


been watching Captain Anthony. He owns artlessly 
that this roused his indignation. It was really too 
much of a good thing. In this state of intense antago- 
nism he was startled to observe tips of fingers fumbling 
with the dark stuff. Then they grasped the edge of 
the further curtain and hung on there, just fingers and 
knuckles and nothing else. It made an abominable 
sight. He was looking at it with unaccountable re- 
pulsion when a hand came into view; a short, puffy, 
old freckled hand projecting into the lamplight, followed 
by a white wrist, an arm in a grey coat-sleeve, up to the 
elbow, beyond the elbow, extended tremblingly towards 
the tray. Its appearance was weird and nauseous, 
fantastic and silly. But instead of grabbing the bottle 
as Powell expected, this hand, tremulous with senile 
eagerness, swerved to the glass, rested on its edge for a 
moment (or so it looked from above) and went back 
with a jerk. The gripping fingers of the other hand 
vanished at the same time, and young Powell, staring, 
at the motionless curtains, could indulge for a moment 
the notion that he had been dreaming. 

"But that notion did not last long. Powell, after re- 
pressing his first impulse to spring for the companion 
and hammer at the captain's door, took steps to have 
himself relieved by the boatswain. He was in a state 
of distraction as to his feelings and yet lucid as to his 
mind. He remained on the skylight so as to keep his 
eye on the tray. 

"Still the captain did not appear in the saloon. 
'If he had,' said Mr. Powell, 'I knew what to do. I 
would have put my elbow through the pane instantly — 

"I asked him why? 

"'It was the quickest dodge for getting him away 
from that tray,' he explained. 'My throat was so dry 


' that I didn't know if I could shout loud enough. And 
this was not a case for shouting, either.' 

"The boatswain, sleepy and disgusted, arriving on 
the poop, found the second officer doubled up over the 
end of the skylight in a pose which might have been 
that of severe pain. And his voice was so changed 
that the man, though naturally vexed at being turned 
out, made no comment on the plea of sudden indisposi- 
tion which young Powell put forward. 

"The rapidity with which the sick man got off 
the poop must have astonished the boatswain. But 
Powell, at the moment he opened the door leading into 
the saloon from the quarter-deck, had managed to con- 
trol his agitation. He entered swiftly, but without 
noise and found himself in the dark part of the saloon, 
the strong sheen of the lamp on the other side of the 
curtains visible only above the rod on which they ran. 
The door of Mr. Smith's cabin was in that dark part. 
He passed by it assuring himself by a quick side glance 
that it was imperfectly closed. 'Yes,' he said to me. 
'The old man must have been watching through the 
crack. Of that I am certain; bul it was not for me 
that he was watching and listening. Horrible! Surely 
he must have been startled to hear and see somebody 
he did not expect. He could not possibly guess why 
I was coming in but I suppose he must have been con- 
cerned.' Concerned indeed! He must have been 
thunderstruck, appalled. 

"Powell's only distinct aim was to remove the sus- 
pected tumbler. He had no other plan, no other inten- 
tion, no other thought. Do away with it in some 
manner. Snatch it up and run out with it. 

"You know that complete mastery of one fixed 
idea, not a reasonable but an emotional mastery, a sort 
of concentrated exaltation. Under its empire men 


rush blindly through fire and water and opposing 
violence, and nothing can stop them — unless, sometimes, 
a grain of sand. For this blind purpose (and clearly 
the thought of Mrs. Anthony was at the bottom of it) 
Mr. Powell had plenty of time. What checked him 
at the crucial moment was the familiar, harmless aspect 
of common things, the steady light, the open book on 
the table, the solitude, the peace, the home-like effect 
of the place. He held the glass in his hand; all he had 
to do was to vanish back beyond the curtains, flee with 
it noiselessly into the night on deck, fling it unseen 
overboard. A minute or less. And then all that 
would have happened would have been the wonder 
at the utter disappearance of a glass tumbler, a ridicu- 
lous riddle in pantry-affairs beyond the wit of any one 
on board to solve. The grain of sand against which 
Powell stumbled in his headlong career was a moment 
of incredulity as to the truth of his own conviction 
because it had failed to affect the safe aspect of familiar 
things. He doubted his eyes too. He must have 
dreamt it all! 'I am dreaming now,' he said to himself. 
And very likely for a few seconds he must have looked 
like a man in a trance or profoundly asleep on his feet, 
and with a glass of brandy-and-water in his hand. 

"What woke him up and, at the same time, fixed his 
feet immovably to the spot, was a voice asking him 
what he was doing there in tones of thunder. Or so it 
sounded to his ears. Anthony, opening the door of his 
stern-cabin, had naturally exclaimed. What else could 
you expect? And the exclamation must have been fairly 
loud if you consider the nature of the sight which met 
his eye. There, before him, stood his second officer, a 
seemingly decent, well-bred young man, who, being on 
duty, had left the deck and had sneaked into the saloon, 
apparently for the inexpressibly mean purpose of drink- 


ing up what was left of his captain's brandy-and-water. 
There he was, caught absolutely with the glass in his 

"But the very monstrosity of appearances silenced 
Anthony after the first exclamation; and young Powell 
felt himself pierced through and through by the over- 
shadowed glance of his captain. Anthony advanced 
quietly. The first impulse of Mr. Powell, when dis- 
covered, had been to dash the glass on the deck. He 
was in a sort of panic. But deep down within him his 
wits were working, and the idea that if he did that he 
could prove nothing and that the story he had to tell 
was completely incredible, restrained him. The cap- 
tain came forward slowly. With his eyes now close to 
his, Powell, spell-bound, numb all over, managed to 
lift one finger to the deck above mumbling the explana- 
tory words, 'Boatswain on the poop.' 

" The captain moved his head slightly as much as to 
say, 'That's all right' — and this was all. Powell had 
no voice, no strength. The air was unbreathable, thick, 
sticky, odious, like hot jelly in which all movements 
became difficult. He raised the glass a little with im- 
mense difficulty and moved his trammelled lips suffi- 
ciently to form the words — 


"Anthony glanced at it for an instant, only for an 
instant, and again fastened his eyes on the face of his 
second mate. Powell added a fervent 'I believe' and 
put the glass down on the tray. The captain's glance 
followed the movement and returned sternly to his 
face. The young man pointed a finger once more up- 
wards and squeezed out of his iron-bound throat six 
consecutive words of further explanation: 'Through 
the skylight. The white pane.' 

"The captain raised his eyebrows very much at this, 


while young Powell, ashamed but desperate, nodded 
insistently several times. He meant to say that: Yes. 
Yes. He had done that thing. He had been spying. 
. . . The captain's gaze became thoughtful. And, 
now the confession was over, the iron-bound feeling 
of Powell's throat passed away giving place to a general 
anxiety which from his breast seemed to extend to all 
the limbs and organs of his body. His legs trembled 
a little, his vision was confused, his mind became 
blankly expectant. But he was alert enough. At a 
movement of Anthony he screamed in a strangled 

"'Don't, sir! Don't touch it.' 

"The captain pushed aside Powell's extended arm, 
took up the glass and raised it slowly against the lamp- 
light. The liquid, of very pale amber colour, was clear, 
and by a glance the captain seemed to call Powell's 
attention to the fact. Powell tried to pronounce the 
word 'dissolved,' but he only thought of it with great 
energy which however failed to move his lips. Only 
when Anthony had put down the glass and turned to 
him he recovered such a complete command of his 
voice that he could keep it down to a hurried, forcible 
whisper — a whisper that shook him. 

"'Doctored!. I swear it! I have seen. Doctored! 
I have seen.' 

"Not a feature of the captain's face moved. His 
was a calm to take one's breath away. It did so to 
young Powell. Then for the first time Anthony made 
himself heard to the point. 

'"You did! . . . Who was it?' 

"And Powell gasped freely at last. *A hand,' he 
whispered fearfully, 'a hand and the arm — only the 
arm — like that.' 

''He advanced his own, slow, stealthy, tremulous ip 


faithful reproduction, the tips of two fingers and the 
thumb pressed together and hovering above the glass 
for an instant — then the swift jerk back, after the deed. 

."'Like that,' he repeated, growing excited. 'From 
behind this.' He grasped the curtain and glaring at 
the silent Anthony flung it back disclosing the forepart 
of the saloon. There was no one to be seen. 

"Powell had not expected to see anybody. 'But,' 
he said to me, 'I knew very well there was an ear listen- 
ing and an eye glued to the crack of a cabin door. Awfih 
thought. And that door was in that part of the saloon 
remaining in the shadow of the other half of the curtain. 
I pointed at it and I suppose that old man inside saw 
me pointing. The captain had a wonderful self- 
command. You couldn't have guessed anything from 
his face. Well, it was perhaps more thoughtful than 
usual. And indeed this was something to think about. 
But I couldn't think steadily. My brain would give 
a sort of jerk and then go dead again. I had lost all 
notion of time, and I might have been looking at the 
captain for days and months for all I knew before I 
heard him whisper to me fiercely: "Not a word!" This 
jerked me out of that trance I was in and I said, "No! 
No! I didn't mean even you." 

"'I wanted to explain my conduct, my intentions, 
but I read in his eyes that he understood me and I was 
only too glad to leave off. And there we were looking 
at each other, dumb, brought up short by the question 
"What next?" 

"'I thought Captain Anthony was a man of iron till 
I saw him suddenly fling his head to the right and to the 
left fiercely, like a wild animal at bay not knowing 
which way to break out. ..." 

"Truly," commented Marlow, "brought to bay was 


not a bad comparison; a better one than Mr. Powell 
was aware of. At that moment the appearance of 
Flora could not but bring the tension to the breaking 
point. She came out in all innocence but not without 
vague dread. Anthony's exclamation on first seeing 
Powell had reached her in her cabin, where, it seems, 
she was brushing her hair. She had heard the very 
words. 'What are you doing here?' And the un- 
wonted loudness of the voice — his voice — breaking 
the habitual stillness of that hour would have startled 
a person having much less reason to be constantly 
apprehensive, than the captive of Anthony's masterful 
generosity. She had no means to guess to whom the 
question was addressed and it echoed in her heart, as 
Anthony's voice always did. Followed complete silence. 
She waited, anxious, expectant, till she could stand the 
strain no longer, and with the weary mental appeal of 
the overburdened, 'My God! What is it now?' she 
opened the door of her room and looked into the saloon . 
Her first glance fell on Powell. For a moment, seeing 
only the second officer with Anthony, she felt relieved 
and made as if to draw back; but her sharpened per- 
ception detected something suspicious in their attitudes, 
and she came forward slowly. 

" 'I was the first to see Mrs. Anthony,' related Powell, 
'because I was facing aft. The captain, noticing my 
eyes, looked quickly over his shoulder and at once put 
his finger to his lips to caution me. As if I were likely 
to let out anything before her ! Mrs. Anthony had on a 
dressing-gown of some grey stuff with red facings and a 
thick red cor,d round her waist. Her hair was down. 
She looked a child; a pale-faced child with big blue eyes 
and a red mouth a little open showing a glimmer of 
white teeth. The light fell strongly on her as she came 
Up to the end of the table. A strange child though; she 

424 k CHANCE 

hardly affected one like a child, I remember. Do you 
know,' exclaimed Mr. Powell, who clearly must have 
been, like many seamen, an industrious reader, 'do 
you know what she looked like to me with those big 
eyes and something appealing in her whole expression? 
She looked like a forsaken elf. Captain Anthony had 
moved towards her to keep her away from my end of 
the table, where the tray was. I had never seen them 
so near to each other before, and it made a great con- 
trast. It was wonderful, for, with his beard cut to a 
point, his swarthy, sunburnt complexion, thin nose and 
his lean head there was something African, something 
Moorish in Captain Anthony. His neck was bare; 
he had taken off his coat and collar and had drawn on 
his sleeping-jacket in the time that he had been absent 
from the saloon. I seem to see him now. Mrs. An- 
thony too. She looked from him to me — I suppose 
I looked guilty or frightened — and from me to him, 
trying to guess what there was between us two. Then 
she burst out with a "What has happened?" which 
seemed addressed to me. I mumbled "Nothing! 
Nothing, ma'am," which she very likely did not hear. 
"'You must not think that all this had lasted a long 
time. She had taken fright at our behaviour and 
turned to the captain pitifully. "What is it you are 
concealing from me?" A straight question — eh? I 
don't know what answer the captain would have made. 
Before he could even raise his eyes to her she cried out : 
"Ah! Here's papa!" in a sharp tone of relief, but di- 
rectly afterwards she looked to me, as if she were holding 
her breath, with apprehension. I was so. interested in 
her that, how shall I say it, her exclamation made no 
sonnection in my brain at first. I also noticed that 
she had sidled up a little nearer to Captain Anthony, 
before it occurred to me to turn my head. I can 


tell you my neck stiffened in the twisted position from 
the shock of actually seeing that old man! He had 
dared! I suppose you think I ought to have looked 
upon him as mad. But I couldn't. It would have been 
certainly easier. But I could not. You should have 
seen him. First of all he was completely dressed with 
his very cap still on his head just as when he left me on 
deck two hours before, saying in his soft voice: "The 
moment has come to go to bed" — while he meant to go 
and do that thing and hide in his dark cabin, and 
watch the stuff do its work. A cold shudder ran down 
my back. He had his hands in the pockets of his 
jacket, his arms were pressed close to his thin, upright 
body, and he shuffled across the cabin with his short 
steps. There was a red patch on each of his old soft 
cheeks as if somebody had been pinching them. He 
drooped his head a little, and looked with a sort of 
underhand expectation at the captain and Mrs. An- 
thony standing close together at the other end of the 
saloon. The calculating horrible impudence of it! 
His daughter was there; and I am certain he had seen 
the captain putting his finger on his lips to warn me. 
And then he had coolly come out! He passed my im- 
agination, I assure you. After that one shiver his 
presence killed every faculty in me — wonder, horror, 
indignation. I felt nothing in particular just as if he 
were still the old gentleman who used to talk to me 
familiarly every day on deck. Would you believe it?' 
"Mr. Powell challenged my powers of wonder at this 
internal phenomenon," went on Marlow after a slight 
pause. "But even if they had not been fully engaged, 
together with all my powers of attention in following 
the facts of the case, I would not have been astonished 
by his statements about himself. Taking into consider- 
ation his youth they were by no means incredible; or. 


at any rate, they were the least incredible part of the 
whole. They were also the least interesting part, 
"^he interest was elsewhere, and there of course all he 
could do was to look at the surface. The inwardness 
of what was passing before his eyes was hidden from 
him, who had looked on, more impenetrably than from 
me who at a distance of years was listening to his words. 
What presently happened at this crisis in Flora de 
Barral's fate was beyond his power of comment, 
seemed in a sense natural. And his own presence on 
the scene was so strangely motived that it was left for 
me to marvel alone at this young man, a completely 
chance-comer, having brought it about on that night. 

"Each situation created either by folly or wisdom has 
its psychological moment. The behaviour of young 
Powell with its mixture of boyish impulses combined 
with instinctive prudence, had not created it — I can't 
say that — but had discovered it to the very people 
involved. What would have happened if he had made 
a noise about his discovery? But he didn't. His 
head was full of Mrs. Anthony and he behaved with a 
discretion beyond his years. Some nice children often 
do ; and surely it is not from reflection. They have their 
own inspirations. * Young Powell's inspiration consisted 
in being 'enthusiastic' about Mrs. Anthony. 'En- 
thusiastic' is really good. And he was amongst them 
like a child, sensitive, impressionable, plastic — but 
unable to find for himself any sort of comment. 

"I don't know how much mine may be worth; but I 
believe that just then the tension of the false situation 
was at its highest. Of all the forms offered to us by 
life it is the one demanding a couple to realize it fully, 
which is the most imperative. Pairing off is the fate 
of mankind. And if two beings thrown together, mu- 
tually attracted, resist the necessity, fail in understand- 


ing and voluntarily stop short of the — the embrace, 
in the noblest meaning of the word, then they are 
committing a sin against life, the call of which is simple. 
Perhaps sacred. And the punishment of it is an in- 
vasion of complexity, a tormenting, forcibly tortuous 
involution of feelings, the deepest form of suffering from 
which indeed something significant may come at last, 
which may be criminal or heroic, may be madness or 
wisdom — or even a straight if despairing decision. 

"Powell on taking his eyes of! the old gentleman 
noticed Captain Anthony, swarthy as an African, by 
the side of Flora whiter than the lilies, take his handker- 
chief out and wipe off his forehead the sweat of anguish 
— like a man who is overcome. 'And no wonder,' 
commented Mr. Powell here. Then the captain said, 
'Hadn't you better go back to your room?' This was 
to Mrs. Anthony. He tried to smile at her. 'Why 
do you look startled? This night is like any other 

"'Which,' Powell again commented to me earnestly 
'was a lie. . . . No wonder he sweated.' You see 
from this the value of Powell's comments. Mrs. 
Anthony then said: 'Why are you sending me away?' 

"'Why! That you should go to sleep. That you 
should rest.' And Captain Anthony frowned. Then 
sharply, 'You stay here, Mr. Powell. I shall want you 
presently.' As a matter of fact Powell had not 
moved. Flora did not mind his presence. He himself 
had the feeling of being of no account to those three 
people. He was looking at Mrs. Anthony as unabashed 
as the proverbial cat looking at a king. Mrs. Anthony 
glanced at him. She did not move, gripped by an 
inexplicable premonition. She had arrived at the very 
limit of her endurance as the object of Anthony's 
magnanimity; she was the prey of an intuitive dread of 

428 ' CHANCE 

she did not know what mysterious influence; she felt 
herself being pushed back into that solitude, that 
moral loneliness, which had made all her life intolerable. 
And then, in that close communion established again 
with Anthony, she felt — as on that night in the garden 
• — the force of his personal fascination. The passive 
quietness with which she looked at him gave her the 
appearance of a person bewitched — or say, mesmerically 
put to sleep — beyond any notion of her surroundings. 

"After telling Mr. Powell not to go away the captain 
remained silent. Suddenly Mrs. Anthony pushed back 
her loose hair with a decisive gesture of her arms and 
moved still nearer to him. 'Here's papa up yet,' she 
said, but she did not look towards Mr. Smith. 'Why 
is it? And you? I can't go on like this, Roderick — 
between you two. Don't.' 

"Anthony interrupted her as if something had untied 
his tongue. 

"'Oh, yes. Here's your father. And . . . Why 
not? Perhaps it is just as well you came out. Between 
us two? Is that it? I won't pretend I don't under- 
stand. I am not blind. But I can't fight any longer 
for what I haven't got. I don't know what you imagine 
has happened. Something has though. Only you 
needn't be afraid. No shadow can touch you — because 
I give up. I can't say we had much talk about it, 
your father and I, but, the long and the short of it is 
that I must learn to live without you — which I have 
told you was impossible. I was speaking the truth. 
But I have done fighting, or waiting, or hoping. Yes. 
You shall go.' 

"At this point Mr. Powell who (he confessed to me) 
was listening with uncomprehending awe, heard behind 
his back a triumphant chuckling sound. It gave him 
the shudders, he said, to mention it now; but at the 


time, except for another chill down the spine, it had not 
the power to destroy his absorption in the scene before 
his eyes, and before his ears too, because just then Cap- 
tain Anthony raised his voice grimly. Perhaps he too 
had heard the chuckle of the old man. 

"'Your father has found an argument which makes 
me pause, if it does not convince me. No! I can't 
answer it. I — I don't want to answer it. I simply 
surrender. He shall have his way with you — and with 
me. Only,' he added in a gloomy lowered tone which 
struck Mr. Powell as if a pedal had been put down, 'only 
it will take a little time. I have never lied to you. 
Never. I renounce not only my chance but my life. 
In a few days, directly we get into port, the very mo- 
ment we do, I, who have said I could never let you go, I 
shall let you go.' 

"To the innocent beholder Anthony seemed at this 
point to become physically exhausted. My view is that 
the utter falseness of his, I may say, aspirations, the 
vanity of grasping the empty air, had come to him with 
an overwhelming force, leaving him disarmed before 
the other's mad and sinister sincerity. As he had said 
himself he could not fight for what he did not possess; 
he could not face such a thing as this for the sake of his 
mere magnanimity. The normal alone can overcome 
the abnormal. He could not even reproach that man 
over there. 'I own myself beaten,' he said in a firmer 
tone. 'You are free. I let you off since I must.' 

"Powell, the onlooker, affirms that at these incompre- 
hensible words Mrs. Anthony stiffened into the very 
image of astonishment, with a frightened stare and 
frozen lips. But next minute a cry came out from her 
heart, not very loud but of a quality which made not only 
Captain Anthony (he was not looking at her), not only 
him but also the more distant (and equally unprepared) 


young man, catch their breath: 'But I don't want to 
be let off,' she cried. 

"She was so still that one asked oneself whether the 
cry had come from her. The restless shuffle behind 
Powell's back stopped short, the intermittent shadowy 
chuckling ceased too. Young Powell, glancing round, 
saw Mr. Smith raise his head with his faded eyes very 
still, puckered at the corners, like a man perceiving 
something coming at him from a great distance. And 
Mrs. Anthony's voice reached Powell's ears, entreating 
and indignant. 

"'You can't cast me off like this, Roderick. I 
won't go away from you. I won't ' 

"Powell turned about and discovered then that what 
Mr. Smith was puckering his eyes at, was the sight of 
his daughter clinging round Captain Anthony's neck — ■ 
a sight not in itself improper, but which had the power 
to move young Powell with a bashfully profound emo- 
tion. It was different from his emotion while spying 
at the revelations of the skylight, but in this case too he 
felt the discomfort, if not the guilt, of an unseen be- 
holder. Experience was being piled up on his young 
shoulders. Mrs. Anthony's hair hung back in a dark 
mass like the hair of a drowned woman. She looked as 
if she would let go and sink to the floor if the captain 
were to. withhold his sustaining arm. But the captain 
obviously had no such intention. Standing firm and 
still he gazed with sombre eyes at Mr. Smith. For a 
time the low convulsive sobbing of Mr. Smith's daugh- 
ter was the only sound to trouble the silence. The 
strength of Anthony's clasp pressing Flora to, his breast 
could not be doubted even at that distance, and sud- 
denly, awakening to his opportunity, he began to partly 
support her, partly carry her in the direction of her 
cabin. His head was bent over her solicitously, then 


recollecting himself, with a glance full of unwonted 
fire, his voice ringing in a note unknown to Mr. Powell, 
he cried to him, 'Don't you go on deck yet. I want you 
to stay down here till I come back. There are some 
instructions I want to give you.' 

"And before the young man could answer, Anthony 
had disappeared in the stern-cabin, burdened and 

"'Instructions,' commented Mr. Powell. 'That was 
all right. Very likely; but they would be such instruc- 
tions as, I thought to myself, no ship's officer perhaps 
had ever been given before. It made me feel a little 
sick to think what they would be dealing with, prob- 
ably. But there! Everything that happens on board 
ship on the high seas has got to be dealt with somehow. 
There are no special people to fly to for assistance. 
And there I was with that old man left in my charge. 
When he noticed me looking at him he started to shuffle 
again athwart the saloon. He kept his hands rammed 
in his pockets, he was as stiff-backed as ever, only his 
head hung down. After a bit he says in his gentle soft 
tone: "Did you see it?"' 

"There were in Powell's head no special words to fit 
the horror of his feelings. So he said — he had to say 
something, 'Good God! What were you thinking of, 
Mr. Smith, to try to . . .' And then he left off. He 
dared not utter the awful word poison. Mr. Smith 
stopped his prowl. 

" ' Think ! What do you know of thinking? I don't 
think. There is something in my head that thinks. 
The thoughts in men, it's like being drunk with liquor 

or You can't stop them. A man who thinks will 

think anything. No! But have you seen it? Have 

"'I tell you I have! I am certain!' said Powell 


forcibly. 'I was looking at you all the time. You've 
done something to the drink in that glass.' 

"Then Powell lost his breath somehow. Mr. Smith 
looked at him curiously, with mistrust. 

"'My good young man, I don't know what you are 
talking about. I ask you — have you seen? Who 
would have believed it? with her arms round his neck. 
When! Oh! Ha! Ha! You did see! Didn't you? 
It wasn't a delusion — was it? Her arms round . . . 
But I have never wholly trusted her.' 

"'Then I flew out at him,' said Mr. Powell. 'I told 
him he was jolly lucky to have fallen upon Captain 
Anthony. A man in a million. He started again 
shuffling to and fro. "You too," he said mournfully, 
keeping his eyes down. "Eh? Wonderful man? But 
have you a notion who I am? Listen ! I have been the 
Great Mr. de Barral. So they printed it in the papers 
while they were getting up a conspiracy. And I have 
been doing time. And now I am brought low." His 
voice died down to a mere breath. "Brought low." 

'"He took his hands out of his pockets, dragged the 
cap down on his head and stuck them back into his 
pockets, exactly as if preparing himself to go out into a 
great wind. "But not so low as to put up with this 
disgrace, to see her, fast in this fellow's clutches, without 
doing something. She wouldn't listen to me. Fright- 
ened? Silly? I had to think of some way to get her 
out of this. Did you think she cared for him? No! 
Would anybody have thought so ? No ! She pretended 
it was for my sake. She couldn't understand that if I 
hadn't been an old man I would have flown at his throat 
months ago. As it was I was tempted every time he 
looked at her. My girl. Ough! Any man but this. 
And all the time the wicked little fool was lying to me. 
It was their plot, their conspiracy ! These conspiracies 


are the devil. She has been leading me on, till she has 
fairly put my head under the heel of that jailer, of that 
scoundrel, of her husband .... Treachery ! Bring- 
ing me low. Lower than herself. In the dirt. That's 
what it means. Doesn't it? Under his heel !" ' 

"He paused in his restless shuffle and again, seizing 
his cap with both hands, dragged it furiously right down 
on his ears. Powell had lost himself in listening to these 
broken ravings, in looking at that old feverish face when, 
suddenly, quick as lightning, Mr. Smith spun round, 
snatched up the captain's glass and with a stifled, hur- 
ried exclamation, 'Here's luck,' tossed the liquor down 
his throat. 

'"I know now the meaning of the word "Consterna- 
tion,"' went on Mr. Powell. 'That was exactly my 
state of mind. I thought to myself directly: There's 
nothing in that drink. I have been dreaming. I have 
made the awf ulest mistake ! . . . ' 

"Mr. Smith put the glass down. He stood before 
Powell unharmed, quieted down, in a listening attitude, 
his head inclined on one side, chewing his thin lips. 
Suddenly he blinked queerly, grabbed Powell's shoul- 
der and collapsed, subsiding all at once as though he had 
gone soft all over, as a piece of silk stuff collapses. 
Powell seized his arm instinctively and checked his 
fall; but as soon as Mr. Smith was fairly on the floor he 
jerked himself free and backed away. Almost as quickly 
he rushed forward again and tried to lift up the body. 
But directly he raised his shoulders he knew that the 
man was dead! Dead! 

"He lowered him down gently. He stood over him. 
without fear or any other feeling, almost indifferent, far 
away, as it were. And then he made another start and, 
if he had not kept Mrs. Anthony always in his mind, he 
would have let out a yell for help. He staggered to her 

434 , CHANCE 

cabin door, and, as it was, his call for 'Captain An- 
thony' burst out of him much too loud; but he made a 
great effort of self-control. ' I am waiting for my orders, 
sir,' he said outside that door distinctly, in a steady 

"It was very still in there; still as death. Then he 
heard a shuffle of feet and the captain's voice 'All right. 
Coming.' He leaned his back against the bulkhead 
as you see a drunken man sometimes propped up against 
a wall, half doubled up. In that attitude the captain 
found him, when he came out, pulling the door to after 
him quickly. At once Anthony let his eyes run all over 
the cabin. Powell, without a word, clutched his fore- 
arm, led him round the end of the table and began to 
justify himself. 'I couldn't stop him,' he whispered 
shakily. 'He was too quick for me. He drank it up 
and fell down.' But the captain was not listening. 
He was looking down at Mr. Smith, thinking perhaps 
that it was a mere chance his own body was not lying 
there. They did not want to speak. They made signs 
to each other with their eyes. The captain grasped 
Powell's shoulder as if in a vice and glanced at Mrs. 
Anthony's cabin door, and it was enough. He knew 
that the young man understood him. Rather! Silence! 
Silence for ever about this. Their very glances became 
stealthy. Powell looked from the body to the door 
of the dead man's state-room. The captain nodded 
and let him go; and then Powell crept over, hooked the 
door open and crept back with fearful glances towards* 
Mrs. Anthony's cabin. They stooped over the corpse. 
Captain Anthony lifted up the shoulders. 

"Mr. Powell shuddered. 'I'll never forget that in- 
terminable journey across the saloon, step by step, 
holding our breath. For part of the way the drawn, 
half of the curtain concealed us from ykw had Mrs- 


Anthony opened her door; but I didn't draw a 1 "free 
breath till after we laid the body down on the swinging 
cot. The reflection of the saloon light left most of-itJa© 
cabin in the shadow. Mr. Smith's rigid, extended bs&djjrr 
looked shadowy too, shadowy and alive. You kaq^/J 
he always carried himself as 'stiff as a poker. « fSjfe 
stood by the cot as though waiting for him to make'ug* 
sign that he wanted to be left alone. The caflitagi 
threw his arm over my shoulder and said in myuvejjy. 
ear: "The steward'll find him in the morning." y v,ffu r d[ 

'"I made no answer. It was for him to say. (KbwalS 
perhaps the best way. It's no use talking abojjit ljft$ 
thoughts. They were not concerned with myself, jaoc 
yet with that old man who terrified me more now thrift 
when he was alive. Him whom I pitied was thfecjapft 
tain. He whispered: "I am certain of you, Mr. Ifo$< 
You had better go on deck now. As to me . . 
I saw him raise his hands to his head as if distra#fce<!b 
But his last words before we stole out of thatioafej© 
stick to my mind with the very tone of his mutfcerPHo 
himself, not to me — ad sqiq 

'"No! No! I am not going to stumble no\sf swsaf 
that corpse.' j& ad 


"This is what our Mr. Powell had to tell mesf'teaid 
Marlow, changing his tone. "I was glad to hamrihs>% 
Flora de Barral had been saved from that sinister sh$flte# 
at least falling upon her path. t moAl 

"We sat silent then, my mind running on thet>j«n4 
of de Barral, on the irresistible pressure of imaginary 
griefs, crushing conscience, scruples, prudenceb maste! 
their ever-expanding volume, on the sombre and ■ verior 
mous irony in the obsession which had masteredrltb&t 
old man. nioaH 

«" Well,' I said. «no 


"'The steward found him,' Mr. Powell roused him- 
self. 'He went in there with a cup of tea at five and of 
course dropped it. I was on watch again. He reeled 
up to me on deck, pale as death. I had been expecting 
it; and yet I could hardly speak. "Go and tell the 
captain quietly," I managed to say. He ran off mutter- 
ing " My God ! My God ! " and I'm hanged if he didn't 
get hysterical while trying to tell the captain, and start 
screaming in the saloon, "Fully dressed! Dead! 
Fully dressed!" Mrs. Anthony ran out of course but 
she didn't get hysterical. Franklin, who was there too, 
told me that she hid her face on the captain's breast 
and then he went out and left them there. It was 
days before Mrs. Anthony was seen on deck. The 
first time I spoke to her she gave me her hand and said, 
"My poor father was quite fond of you, Mr. Powell." 
She started wiping her eyes and I fled to the other side 
[of the deck. One would like to forget all this had ever 
come near her.' 

"But clearly he could not, because after lighting his 
pipe he began musing aloud: 'Very strong stuff it must 
have been. I wonder where he got it. It could hardly 
be at a common chemist. Well, he had it from some- 
where — a mere pinch it must have been, no more.' 

"I have my theory," observed Marlow, "which to a 
certain extent does away with the added horror of a 
coldly premeditated crime. Chance had stepped in 
there too. It was not Mr. Smith who obtained the 
poison. It was the Great de Barral. And it was not 
meant for the obscure, magnanimous conqueror of 
Flora de Barral; it was meant for the notorious financier 
whose enterprises had nothing to do with magnanimity. 
He had his physician in his days of greatness. I even 
seem to remember that the man was called at the trial 
on some small point or other. I can imagine that de 


Barral went to him when he saw, as he could hardly 
help seeing, the possibility of a 'triumph of envious 
rivals' — a heavy sentence. 

"I doubt if for love or even for money, but I think 
possibly from pity that man provided him with what 
Mr. Powell called 'strong stuff.' From what Powell 
saw of the very act I am fairly certain it must have been 
contained in a capsule and that he had it about him on 
the last day of his trial, perhaps secured by a stitch in 
his waistcoat pocket. He didn't use it. "Why? Did 
he think of his child at the last moment? Was it want 
of courage? We can't tell. But he found it in his 
clothes when he came out of jail. It had escaped in- 
vestigation if there was any. Chance had armed him. 
And chance alone, the chance of Mr. Powell's life, 
forced him to turn the abominable weapon against 

"I imparted my theory to Mr. Powell who accepted 
it at once as, in a sense, favourable to the father of Mrs. 
Anthony. Then he waved his hand. 'Don't let us 
think of it.' 

"I acquiesced and very soon he observed dreamily — 

"'I was with Captain and Mrs. Anthony sailing all 
over the world for near on six years. Almost as long 
as Franklin.' 

'"Oh, yes! What about Franklin?' I asked. 

"Powell smiled. 'He left the Ferndale a year .or so 
afterwards, and I took his place. Captain Anthony 
recommended him for a command. You don't think 
Captain Anthony would chuck a man aside like an old 
glove. But of course Mrs. Anthony did not like him 
very much. I don't think she ever let out a whisper 
against him but Captain Anthony could read her 

"And again Powell seemed to lose himself in the past. 


'llbasked, for suddenly the vision of the Fynes passed 
^through my mind, 

"'Any children?' 
>ini" Powell gave a start. 'No! No! Never had any 
JekHdren,' and again subsided, puffing at his short briar 

ii9 r /' ' Where are they now? ' I inquired next as if anxious 
ifco iascertain that all Fyne's fears had been misplaced 
/and vain as our fears often are; that there were no un- 
IdfiSirable cousins for his dear girls, no danger of intru- 
Jsienron their spotless home. Powell looked round at me 
aflbwly, his pipe smouldering in his hand. 
-ni'l'Don't you know?' he uttered in a deep voice. 
.fmV'Know what?' 

, oil!" That the Ferndale was lost this four years or more. 
JSuhk. Collision. And Captain Anthony went down 
with her.' 

biftf You don't say so!' I cried quite affected as if I 
.hsUL known Captain Anthony personally. 'Was — was 
?Mrfe. Anthony lost too?' 

"'You might as well ask if I was lost,' Mr. Powell re- 
-jogfed so testily as to surprise me. 'You see me here — 
I&Ms't you?' 

gndiHe was quite huffy, but noticing my wondering 
stare he smoothed his ruffled plumes. And in a musing 

08 tf 'Yes. Good men go out as if there was no use for 
"ttem in the world. It seems as if there were things 
iifat, as the Turks say, are written. Or else fate has a 
itfey and sometimes misses its mark. You remember 
itMit close shave we had of being run down at night, I 
ifesjd you of, my first voyage with them. This go it was 
•ijuBt at dawn. A flat calm and a fog thick enough to 
slice with a knife. Only there were no explosives on 
board. I was on deck and I remember the cursed, 


murderous thing looming up alongside and Captanfo 
Anthony (we were both on deck) calling out, "Gioodr 
God! What's this! Shout for all hands, Powell,) to 
save themselves. There's no dynamite on board no'wd 
I am going to get the wife! . . ."I yelled, all thef 
watch on deck yelled. Crash ! ' A " 

"Mr. Powell gasped at the recollection. 'It wassa 
Belgian Green Star liner, the Westland,' he went oify 
'commanded by one of those stop-for-nothing skipperSI 
Flaherty was his name and I hope he will die withouh 
absolution. She cut half through the old Ferndale 
and after the blow there was a silence like death. Nessft 
I heard the captain back on deck shouting, "Set your 
engines slow ahead," and a howl of "Yes, yes," answeoA 
ing him from her forecastle; and then a whole crowd of> 
people up there began making a row in the fog. The$> 
were throwing ropes down to us in dozens, I must say.' 
I and the captain fastened one of them under Mrs. 
Anthony's arms: I remember she had a sort of dinat 
smile on her face. fT 

" ' "Haul up carefully," I shouted to the people on the 
steamer's deck. "You've got a woman on that line^i 

" 'The captain saw her landed up there safe. Aa4 
then we made a rush round our decks to see no one wad 
left behind. As we got back the captain says: "Herd 
she's gone, at last, Powell; the dear old thing! Run 
down at sea." >q 

" ' "Indeed she is gone," I said. "But it might have" 
been worse. Shin up this rope, sir, for God's sake. I 
will steady it for you." 'T 

"' "What are you thinking about?" he says angrilyu 
"It isn't my turn. Up with you." 

" 'These were the last words he ever spoke on earth J 
suppose. I knew he meant to be the last to leave 'his 
ship, so I swarmed up as quick °.s I could, and those 


damned lunatics up there grab at me from above, lug 
me in, drag me along aft through the row and the riot 
of the silliest excitement I ever did see. Somebody 
hails from the bridge, "Have you got them all on 
board? " and a dozen silly asses start yelling all together, 
"All saved! All saved," and then that accursed Irish- 
man on the bridge, with me roaring "No! No!" till I 
thought my head would burst, rings his engines astern. 
He rings the engines astern — I fighting like mad to make 
myself heard ! And of course . . .' 

"I saw tears, a shower of them fall down Mr. Powell's 
face. His voice broke. 

'"The Ferndale went down like a stone and Captain 
Anthony went down with her, the finest man's soul that 
ever left a sailor's body. I raved like a maniac, like a 
devil, with a lot of fools crowding round me and asking: 
"Aren't you the captain?" 

" ' "I wasn't fit to tie the shoe-strings of the man you 
have drowned," I screamed at them. . . . Well! 
Well ! I could see for myself that it was no good lower- 
ing a boat. You couldn't have seen her alongside. 
No use. And only think, Marlow, it was I who had to 
go and tell Mrs. Anthony. They had taken her down 
below somewhere, first-class saloon. I had to go and 
tell her! That Flaherty, God forgive him, comes to 
me as white as a sheet, "I think you are the proper 
person." God forgive him. I wished to die a hundred 
times. A lot of kind ladies, passengers, were chattering 
excitedly around Mrs. Anthony — a real parrot house. 
The ship's doctor went before me. He whispers right 
and left and then there falls a sudden hush. Yes, 
I wished myself dead. But Mrs. Anthony was a, 

"Here Mr. Powell fairly burst into tears. 'No one 
could help loving Captain Anthony. I leave you to 


imagine what he was to her. Yet before the week was 
out it was she who was helping me to pull myself to- 

'"Is Mrs. Anthony in England now?' I asked after a 

"He wiped his eyes without any false shame. 'Oh, 
yes.' He began to look for matches, and while diving 
for the box under the table added: 'And not very far 
from here either. That little village up there — you 

"'No! Really! Oh, I see!" 

"Mr. Powell smoked austerely, very detached. But 
I could not let him off like this. The sly beggar. So 
this was the secret of his passion for sailing about the 
river, the reason of his fondness for that creek. 

'"And I suppose,' I said, 'that you are still as "en- 
thusiastic" as ever. Eh? If I were you I would just 
mention my enthusiasm to Mrs. Anthony. "Why 

"He caught his falling pipe neatly. But if what the 
French call effarement was ever expressed on a human 
countenance it was on this occasion, testifying to his 
modesty, his sensibility and his innocence. He looked 
afraid of somebody overhearing my audacious — almost 
sacrilegious hint — as if there had not been a mile and a 
half of lonely marshland and dykes between us and the 
nearest human habitation. And then perhaps he re- 
membered the soothing fact, for he allowed a gleam to 
light up his eyes, like the reflection of some inward fire 
tended in the sanctuary of his heart by a devotion aa 
pure as that of any vestal. 

"It flashed and went out. He smiled a bashful 
smile, sighed — 

"'Pah! Foolishness. You ought to know better,' 
he said, more sad than annoved. 'But I forgot that 


you:-[never knew Captain Anthony,' he added indul- 

"I reminded him that I knew Mrs. Anthony; even 
jbdfote he — an old friend now — had ever set eyes on her. 
And as he told me that Mrs. Anthony had heard of our 
< i$©e , tings I wondered whether she would care to see me. 
jMfoiFowell volunteered no opinion then; but next time 
SKfc ^35 in the creek he said, 'She will be very pleased. 
i5&ju-had better go to-day.' 

"The afternoon was well advanced before I ap- 
proached the cottage. The amenity of a fine day in its 
decline surrounded me with a beneficent, a calming 
ci&fluejuce; I felt it in the silence of the shady lane, in the 
$ltsrejair, in the blue sky. It is difficult to retain the 
memory of the conflicts, miseries, temptations and 
-Qrjmes of men's self-seeking existence when one is 
ftig^felwith the charming serenity of the unconscious 
^Wre, Breathing the dreamless peace around the 
picturesque cottage I was approaching, it seemed to 
jjt$ thdt it must reign everywhere, over all the globe of 
iwatoJMand land and in the hearts of all the dwellers on 

boJTJBk^a came down to the garden gate to meet me, no 
ImgfiR— the perversely tempting, sorrowful wisp of 
jwbJfce^ftAst drifting in the complicated bad dream of 
•ejjsfcettjaej. Neither did she look like a forsaken elf. I 
^Janji#i§md out stupidly, 'Again in the country, Miss 
ot la&ifyfxs. . . .' She was very good, returned the 
pieSsffiftflf my hand, but we were slightly embarrassed. 
gEhgnijweiaughed a little. Then we became grave. 

"I am no lover of day-breaks. You know how thin, 
felllli^gfcal, is the light of the dawn. But she was now 
her true self, she was like a fine tranquil afternoon — 
and not so very far advanced either. A woman not 
jBSIiftpboiaYer thirty, with a dazzling complexion and a 


little colour, a lot of hair, a smooth brow, a fine chin, 
and only the eyes of the Flora of the old days, absolutely 

"In the room into which she led me we found a Miss 
Somebody — I didn't catch the name— an unobtrusive, 
even an indistinct, middle-aged person in black. A 
companion. All very proper. She came and went and 
even sat down at times in the room, but a little apart, 
with some sewing. By the time she had brought in a 
lighted lamp I had heard all the details which really 
matter in this story. Between me and her who was 
once Flora de Barral the conversation was not likely 
to keep strictly to the weather. 

"The lamp had a rosy shade; and its glow wreathed 
her in perpetual blushes, made her appear wonderfully 
young as she sat before me in a deep, high-backed arm- 
chair. I asked: 

"'Tell me what was it you said in that famous letter 
which so upset Mrs. Fyne, and caused little Fyne to 
interfere in that offensive manner? ' 

"'It was simply crude,' she said earnestly. 'I was 
feeling reckless and I wrote recklessly. I knew she 
would disapprove and I wrote foolishly. It was the 
echo of her own stupid talk. I said that I did not love 
her brother, but that I had no scruples whatever in 
marrying him.' 

"She paused, hesitating, then with a shy half -laugh: 

"'I really believed I was selling myself, Mr. Mario w. 
And I was proud of it. What I suffered afterwards I 
couldn't tell you; because I only discovered my love for 
my poor Roderick through agonies of rage and humilia- 
tion. I came to suspect him of despising me; but I 
could not put it to the test because of my father. Oh! 
I would not have been too proud. But I had to spare 
poor papa's feelings. Roderick was perfect, but I felt as 



though I were on the rack and not allowed even to cry 
out. Papa's prejudice against Roderick was my great- 
est grief. It was distracting. It frightened me. Oh! 
I have been miserable! That night when my poor 
father died suddenly I am certain they had some sort 
of discussion about me. But I did not want to hold 
out any longer against my own heart! I could not.' 

"She stopped short, then impulsively: 

" ' Truth will out, Mr. Marlow. ' 
' "'Yes,' I said. 
' "She went on musingly: 

"'Sorrow and happiness were mingled at first like 
darkness and light. For months I lived in a dusk of 
feelings. But it was quiet. It was warm. . . . ' 

"Again she paused, then going back in her thoughts: 
'No ! There was no harm in that letter. It was simply 
foolish. What did I know of life then? Nothing. But 
Mrs. Fyne ought to have known better. She wrote a 
letter to her brother, a little later. Years afterwards 
Roderick allowed me to glance at it. I found in it this 
sentence: "For years I tried to make a friend of that 
girl, but I warn you once more that she has the nature 
of a heartless adventuress. ..." 'Adventuress!' re- 
peated Flora slowly. 'So be it. I have had a fine 
adventure. ' 

"'It was fine, then,' I said, interested. 

" ' The finest in the world ! Only think ! I loved and 
I was loved, untroubled, at peace, without remorse, 
without fear. All the world, all life were transformed 
for me. And how much I have seen ! How good people 
were to me! Roderick was so much liked everywhere. 
Yes, I have known kindness and safety. The most 
familiar things appeared lighted up with a new light, 
clothed with a loveliness I had never suspected. The 
sea itself! . . . , You are a sailor. You have lived 


your life on it. But do you know how beautiful it 
is how strong, how charming, how friendly, how 
mighty? . . .' 

" I listened amazed and touched. She was silent only 
a little while. 

"It was too good to last. But nothing can rob me of 
it now. . . . Don't think that I repine. I am not 
even sad now. Yes, I have been happy. But I re- 
member also the time when I was unhappy beyond 
endurance, beyond desperation. Yes. You remember 
that. And later on, too. There was a time on board 
the Ferndale when the only moments of relief I knew 
were when I made Mr. Powell talk to me a little on the 
poop. You like him? — don't you?' 

'"Excellent fellow,' I said warmly. 'You see him 

"Of course. I hardly know another soul in the 
world. I am alone. And he has plenty of time on his 
hands. His aunt died a few years ago. He's doing 
nothing, I believe. ' 

'"He is fond of the sea,' I remarked. 'He loves it.' 

'"He seems to have given it up,' she murmured. 

"'I wonder why?' 

" She remained silent. 'Perhaps it is because he loves 
something else better,' I went on. 'Come, Mrs. An- 
thony, don't let me carry away from here the idea that 
you are a selfish person, hugging the memory of your 
past happiness, like a rich man his treasure, forgetting 
the poor at the gate.' 

"I rose to go, for it was getting late. She got up in 
some agitation and went out with me into the fragrant 
darkness of the garden. She detained my hand for a 
moment, and then in the very voice of the Flora of old 
days, with the exact intonation, showing the old mis- 
trust, the old doubt of herself, the old scar of the blow 


received in childhood, pathetic and funny, she mur- 
mured, 'Do you think it possible that he should care 
for me?' 

"'Just ask him yourself. You are brave.' 

"'Oh, I am brave enough,' she said with a sigh. 

"'Then do. For if you don't you will be wronging 
that patient man cruelly. ' 

"I departed, leaving her dumb. Next day, seeing 
Powell making preparations to go ashore, I asked him 
to give my regards to Mrs. Anthony. He promised 
he would. 

"'Listen, Powell,' I said. 'We got to know each 
other by chance?' 

,"'Oh, quite!' he admitted, adjusting his hat. 

"'And the science of life consists in seizing every 
chance that presents itself,' I pursued. 'Do you be- 
lieve that?' 

" ' Gospel truth, ' he declared innocently. 

"'Well, don't forget it.' 

"'Oh, I! I don't expect now anything to present 
itself,' he said, jumping ashore. 

"He didn't turn up at high water. I set my sail 
and just as I had cast off from the bank, round the black 
barn, in the dusk, two figures appeared and stood silent, 

'"Is that you, Powell?' I hailed. 

"'And Mrs. Anthony,' his voice came impressively 
through the silence of the great marsh. 'I am not 
sailing to-night. I have to see Mrs. Anthony home.' 
Then I must even go alone, ' I cried. 

"Flora's voice wished me 'bon voyage' in a most 
friendly but tremulous tone. 

'"You shall hear from me before long,' shouted 
Powell suddenly, just as my boat had cleared the mouth 
of the creek. 


"This was yesterday," added Marlow, lolling in the 
armchair lazily. "I haven't heard yet; but I expect 
to hear any moment. . . . What on earth are you 
grinning at in this sarcastic manner? I am not afraid 
of going to church with a friend. Hang it all, for all 
my belief in Chance I am not exactly a pagan. . . „"